The Delaney Woman
The Delaney Woman began well, slowed down in the middle and then finished fast, almost too fast. The love story wasn’t a good fit with the mystery and Tom Whelan was too passive a hero. However, the women characters were well done and the writing was smooth. It had its good points… it had its bad points.
Kellie Delaney lives with her widowed twin brother Connor and his son Danny. Connor is a policeman, Kellie a teacher. They are the only “good” members of the Delaney family. All the others are alcoholics, in jail, or otherwise out of the picture. When Connor and Danny are killed in a suspicious car wreck, Kellie begins to snoop and finds the name Tom Whelan on Connor’s computer. She goes to the town of Banburren to find him.
Tom runs a guesthouse, makes handcrafted ulienne pipes, writes poetry, and lives a quiet and simple life. He has a daughter, Heather, but is reticent about her mother. Gradually, Kellie moves from being a guest to helping Tom run the house. She becomes close to Heather, much closer to Tom, all the while sifting through clues to discover what happened to her brother and nephew. Things take a turn for the worse when Tom’s wife Claire shows up, for by then Kellie and Tom are in love and Claire may hold the key to solve the mystery of Connor and Danny’s death.
The Delaney Woman is at its best when it concentrates on the mundane. Jeannette Baker can describe simple things so well – Tom’s home, the town of Banburren, a festival, the taste of food, and such. It’s quite delightful. As for the characters, they needed some spice. Tom is nice, beta, bland, and quite frankly boring. My heroes needn’t be chest-thumpers, but Tom’s passivity was such that I wanted to scream, “For goodness sakes, man, do something!” – more than once, I can assure you. Thankfully Kellie was persistent or the crime would never have been solved because the officials in the book were also quite passive.
Kellie Delaney is a much better character than Tom. She’s intelligent and strong without being annoyingly spunky. She doesn’t let grief overpower her common sense and she’s not prone to hare off and do stupid things. After her rough early life and heartache over her loss, the kind and gentle Tom is just what she needs.
The secondary characters are very nice. Tom’s mother and his daughter Heather are pleasant and supportive. Tom’s wife Claire is a very interesting character who could have been a stereotypical “eeeevil woman” but is too complex and interesting for that. I’d like to see her in a story of her own. Other secondary characters, the ones involved in Connor and Danny’s death, come out of the woodwork when they are needed, but are never in sharp focus.
Because Baker has received some excellent reviews at AAR, perhaps my expectations were too high for The Delaney Woman. It earns points for the Irish setting and the women in Tom’s life, but loses them for its weak suspense sub-plot and Tom himself.