Poulson, Christine - 'Footfall'
FOOTFALL is the third in the Cassandra James series. Cassandra is an academic at St Etheldreda's College, Cambridge and her current work in progress is a book on 'Sisters' in nineteenth century literature. She is spending a lot of time in the city's 'Institute' using relevant papers and literature.
After a particularly hassled day she returns home to her husband and young daughter and amongst the chaos of a spilt dinner she only just gets to the phone when it rings. Puzzled when nobody appears to be on the line, she thinks no more of it until the next day, when her friend, Superintendent Jim Ferguson, calls round to her office. The phone call was the last act of her friend Una Carwadine before being pushed down the stairs.
A few days later Cassandra received a letter posted by Una just prior to her death. The letter implies that someone is possibly betraying Una though she's not sure and that Cassandra will be able to help her. Guilt stricken that she didn't visit Una more often, Cassandra vows to discover what had been bothering Una. She also wants to find out what happened to Una's money which was to go to St Etheldreda's, along with her enormous book collection, but appears to have been spent. This legacy was due to go to the 'Institute' before a last minute change to the will. As well as issues relating to Una, Cassandra has her own mystery in the shape of a doppelganger. Someone has been using her name, visiting her hairdresser and even sitting in her office pretending to be her.
FOOTFALL is a delightful amateur sleuth novel with a well-balanced mix of domestic and academic life with a number of mysteries woven through it. Cassandra isn't an out and out detective, she approaches Una's missing money puzzle in an academic way using her professional resources but leaves the hunt for the murderer to the police. There's no intentional going into dark places to meet the killer alone for her.
There's a strong sense of place, the Fens and Cambridge are accurately portrayed - especially the wind from the Urals! I particularly enjoyed the snippets thrown in about nineteenth century literature and the information on book collecting.
There are few suspects for the murder of Una and my first instinct was correct but it could easily have been wrong as the evidence pointed at one person after another.
The previous two titles are DEAD LETTERS (US: MURDER IS ACADEMIC: A CAMBRIDGE MYSTERY) and STAGE FRIGHT.
Karen Meek, England