Rob Keeley 2022
Tom Barton is hapless. He is without hap. He sneezes his way through his Mooting Competition, he is put in the embarrassing position of asking for permission to go to the bathroom at the dinner following, and he is so deeply in the thrall of the lovely Becca Decker-Hamilton that he would gladly jump off a high tower at Becca’s request.
Is there a high tower? Does Tom jump, whether literally or figuratively? You’ll have to read Rob Keeley’s novella to find out; but it might just be that Tom’s hapless nature gets him into big trouble.
This short mystery is a pleasant, engaging read; the dialogue is well-written and with the exception of a large, unexpected time gap, the pacing is generally consistent. Given the length of novella, the characters are generally nicely developed – with a couple of exceptions. The protagonist spells out the ethnicity of non-Caucasion characters (biracial, Pakistani), which was not necessary since physical description and name, respectively, are enough to convey this information. Also, Tom expresses value judgments of the attractiveness of more female than male characters (pretty, beautiful gorgeous, a knockout). I want to be clear; this is my own personal hot button. It’s not my intent to evaluate the literary merit of the technique. As such, my rating does not take this last point into consideration.
My experience as a non-legal and non-British reader would have been enhanced by a list of definitions for what I consider the insider terms that pepper the first chapter or so. This became less important as the story moved on from initial events.
To conclude, Death at Friar’s Inn is a pleasant, generally well-paced read with interesting, likeable characters. I didn’t guess the identity of the killer, which I consider a win for the author. I was confused by the terms used in the first chapter or so, I did not need to have the ethnicity of characters spelled out for me, and I was jarred by the unexpected forward time leap at one point in the book.
A three star rating for me means that I consider the book worth reading, with some drawbacks. Although many sites will not allow me to add half-stars, I consider this a 3.5 star book and worth the read – especially for those who like legal thrillers or contemporary British crime fiction.
I would like to meet Tom Barton again, because I wonder what happens next in his legal career. My fingers are crossed in hope that the author will develop a series based on this character’s further adventures.
Many thanks to Rob Keeley for a complementary copy of this book, in exchange for my honest review.