Quite a while ago I had read the first book of the author’s other series, enjoyed it very much, and somehow never got back into his work. When I saw his name pop up on Netgalley, it seemed like a fine idea to give him a try again – and, thank goodness, it actually was.
The Ishmael Jones series is a slightly mad mélange of genres (say that three times fast). There’s a science fiction element, of course, in that Ishmael Jones himself is an alien in human form, with no memory of his previous, extraterrestrial, life. And there is a fantasy element in the circumstances of the murder(s) (though not the fantasy element you might think). Otherwise, regardless of the murder weapon (of which I say no more), this was almost pure English Country House Mystery – locked and unlocked rooms, a dwindling population of characters, endless hallways and staircases and people going off when they oughtn’t.
One somewhat small thing that kept this from getting the full five stars was simply a running gag between Ishmael and his lady love, Penny Belcourt. Every now and then she felt an irresistible need to make the same suggestion about the identity of the murderer, to the point that I wanted to throw her down a handy staircase or stuff her in a sarcophagus. I think it was supposed to be cute – that she was playing on Ishmael’s tendency to take everything seriously … and this is something that might play much better in an audiobook, where the narrator could make her constant comment ‘I still say we shouldn’t rule out …’ mischievous, with Jones not picking up on the mischief … but I didn’t listen to an audiobook, and it drove me up a wall. Along with Jones.
I looked at her. ‘If I offered you a large amount of money, would you stop saying that?’
‘How large?’ said Penny.
It’s a fascinating bit of world-building, with a group to clean up after starship crashes, secret even to the secret group Ishmael belongs to. Ishmael seems thoroughly human … except when he’s really not. I’m looking forward to going back and starting at the beginning.
The usual disclaimer: I received this book via Netgalley for review.