November 30, 2011


The Jack Carston Mysteries
by Bill Kirton
Kindle Edition, Pfoxmoor Publishing, PfoxChase

Review by Melissa Conway

I am acquainted with the author and received this ebook free, which should in no way be construed as an admission that the following review is biased. If I don’t like a book, I won’t finish reading it no matter who wrote it.

Shadow Selves is the fourth installment in award-winning author Bill Kirton’s Scotland-based Jack Carston Mysteries. I haven’t read the first three, but had no difficulty whatsoever immersing myself in this cracking good story.

Someone wanted to make very sure that Professor Hayne of the University of Grampian never recovered from his surgery. Not only did his supposedly infallible sutures rupture and cause him to hemorrhage internally, but a lethal dose of pain killer had also been administered by his killer or killers. It’s this very ‘overkill’ that brings his death to the attention of Detective Chief Inspector Jack Carston.

Carston soon discovers that Hayne, head of the department of European Culture at the university, wasn’t well liked. In fact, among his peers “…no blood was let, but hatreds and antagonisms simmered.”  Hayne had enemies to spare and not just at his workplace. As his health declined, he’d been a frequent patient at Bartholomew Memorial Hospital – a cantankerous, unpopular patient. Add to that a wife who can’t even pretend she’s sad he’s gone, and Carston and his team have no shortage of suspects.

Chief among them are the professors angling for Hayne’s job now that he’s gone. There’s the wretchedly malodorous Prof. Leith, with his connection to the surgeon who performed Hayne’s surgery; there’s Prof. Carlyle, whose very department was in jeopardy due to the machinations of an ambitious Hayne; and there’s Prof. Christie, a lecherous wannabe-dandy accused of sexual harassment.

The constipated and sometimes quite amusing posturing of the professors as they scheme to advance themselves and their interests, often at the expense of their colleagues, is mirrored in Carston’s own department, as he struggles to assimilate a new detective with ulterior motives.

Sandra Scott is the attractive student dealing not only with Christie’s unwanted advances, but with a persistent stalker. She’s aided by Carston’s newly-promoted Sargent Julie McNeil, whose misguided attempt to frighten the stalker off has unintended consequences…

The author, a former university lecturer, imbues his narrative with an almost palpable intelligence, and I have no doubt he tapped into his real-life background to accurately depict not only the academic and hospital settings for Shadow Selves, but the psychosocial motivations between its colorful characters. We also get a creepy look into the mind of the stalker as his offenses escalate.

Like all the best mysteries, the author created a multitude of plausible suspects that kept me guessing throughout, but then pulled off an uncontrived resolution to the ‘whodunnit’ that managed to surprise me. Another good, solid read from Bill Kirton.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Melissa. I'm glad it was enough to keep you reading. And I particularly like the accolade of the ending being 'uncontrived'. I know exactly what you mean.