Charles, Paul - 'Family Life'
County Donegal in Ireland, August 2008 and a family is meeting to celebrate the birthday of the father. The farm where they gather has been in Liam Sweeney's family since 1876 but it's much larger and more prosperous now. They are awaiting the arrival of the youngest son Joe who runs the farm. However within a few hours Joe is found dead and almost certainly murdered. All the family fall under suspicion: the eldest son and his scheming wife, the middle son and his girlfriend and the only daughter and her girlfriend. There has been bitter squabbling about the future of the farm. Liam wants Joe to inherit as he is the only one who likes the land. The others want to sell the land to a developer. During Inspector Starrett's investigation others fall under suspicion: the children of Liam's father's deceased brother. They wanted to sell their neighbouring farm for development but Liam, using an agreement drawn up by the brothers bought it for an agricultural rate, very much lower than what they would have got. Joe had also set up a distribution company to sell his and other farmers produce direct to the retailer bypassing the main wholesaler. Starrett's investigation is also hampered by interference from his well meaning boss and the fact that a childhood sweetheart, Maggie, is back in his life following the death of her husband, and with three children to complicate things!
I enjoy the author's Christy Kennedy books and was wary over this one - I don't know Ireland and thought it might be a bit parochial. Well the last part is true as in a close knit community there are few secrets. However googling Ramelton and the surrounding area it is a very beautiful place and the author conveys the happiness of the people who live there.
Starrett comes across as very likeable, naive and a little unworldly but obviously a good detective. There is some mystery, probably to do with the time he lived in London, to give him an edge. Besides his relationship with Maggie he is very close to Samantha Aljoe the pathologist. The other Garda characters are well rounded and the book is complex with so many suspects, well written and comes to a satisfying if a bit unlikely Agatha Christie type ending.
I'm certainly going to read other Starrett books (this is the second) however I wonder what his first name is – could he really be Starrett Starrett?
Geoff Jones, England