Desert Isle Keeper
I came upon this newly released novel by accident when it was commended by two authors whose work I admire. I am so glad I accepted their recommendation and bought this book. Bitter Legacy is the début novel by Dal Maclean and it is wonderful. I have recycled some of the book’s blurb in my description below, as an accidental spoiler would ruin the marvellous, intricate plot.
Detective Sergeant James Henderson’s remarkable gut instincts have put him on a three-year fast track to becoming an inspector. But the advancement of his career has come at a cost with the absence of any form of romantic social life.
But when the case of the murder of barrister Maria Curzon-Whyte lands in his lap, all that changes. His investigation leads him unexpectedly to a circle of irresistibly charming men and a new home. Soon his desire for photographer Ben Morgan challenges him to find a way into the other man’s lifestyle of one-night stands and carefree promiscuity. James questions himself as to whether he desires a monogamous lifestyle because he has never tried a different approach, or because it is what he really wants.
At the same time his single murder case multiplies into a cruel pattern of violence and depravity, and James finds both his tumultuous private life and coveted career threatened by a bitter legacy.
This is a superbly plotted crime novel where the romance is cleverly integrated rather than an obvious add-on and both elements have equal importance and are written with equal intensity. I could hardly put the book down; I was hooked by the murder mystery and totally absorbed by the romance.
James is a thoroughly nice character from the beginning. He is honest, decent, principled, thoughtful, and unaware of his physical allure. While this fact is adorable, it does add to the plot in a subtle way. When he finds the ideal flat to rent, from a minor piece of evidence in his murder investigation, it also brings Ben Morgan into his life.
Ben is well educated, stunningly good-looking, a talented photographer and loyal friend, kind, totally against romantic commitment, harsh bordering on cruel and extremely promiscuous. As the author intended, I changed my view of Ben many times whilst reading. On the positive side, it kept me on my toes regarding the plot, but it made the last few pages a little difficult to accept, however much I wanted to.
The writing is very good and very visual –
…her shocked grief dissolved her glossy career-blonde veneer like solvent on paint.
Additionally, this author knows the setting – London – very well; her confidence when describing routes, road names, types of architecture and transport adds a delightful authenticity to the plot and again supports her visual style of writing.
It’s difficult to write a review of such a novel without even alluding to elements which might give details away, and it is important to know nothing when reading this romantic crime story. I hope I have intrigued and informed rather than revealed.
I will say there is nothing too upsetting in its gruesome nature murder-wise, however, these events do pack quite an emotional punch. I did not guess the truth until a couple of pages before it is all revealed and the twists are really believable and enjoyable. I could visualise all the police procedures, crime scenes, characters and the MIT incident room in which James works so hard. The author was meticulous in the plotting of her story, which is by no means a simple one, and I felt Bitter Legacy could transfer to TV as a series or long drama very easily.
I award it my highest recommendation and intend to auto-buy this author’s next work based on the strength of this one.