Monday, May 1, 2023

The Mystery of the Homeless Man (SeeMS Detective Agency #3), by Gina Cheyne

Fly Fizzi Ltd., ISBN 9781915138088, May 2023 

Miranda is walking in the woods when she finds a homeless just waking up from sleep. He has no idea what he's doing in the woods near the village of Owly Vale. He remembers falling asleep in Billington, and only wants to get back there. Miranda feeds him breakfast, but since he wants nothing else, gives him twenty pounds, and her husband gives him a ride to London, since he's going there anyway.

It's 15 years later when Miranda and her partners in the SeeMS Detective Agency are hired to find out why the cottage called Wild Garlic just won't sell. There are mostly shorter-term leases, a lot of initial offers, but those offers always fall through, for reasons that aren't apparent. So Miranda, Cat, and Stevie set out to investigate the cottage and its history.

Initially, the most interesting new information is a car crashing into the cottage's gate. The local police respond with unaccustomed speed, but the driver is already gone from the scene. There's a wheelchair in the trunk, and the car is adapted for a handicapped driver.

Then there's the homeless man found dead in the cottage. No ID, initially appears to be just a drunk who may have died from his alcohol abuse. When the detectives push for more answers, though, after Miranda realizes she recognizes the man as the confused drunk she met years ago. It turns out there's an injection site in his groin. Just the one, so he wasn't a regular drug user, but it's too late to identify whatever he was injected with.

Oh, and he has some brain damage typical of pilots who have done aerial acrobatics. Stevie, a pilot (her other job is flying 777s for BA), goes hunting down evidence that will identify their dead pilot, and his possible connection to the cottage.

Soon each of the women is finding puzzling information--about the dead man, about the car, about a therapist who might have known both the dead man and the enigmatic owner of a pilots' bar. Tracking down the man's identity and acquaintances is a challenge, and an interesting one to follow.

Along the way, the investigation causes some serious conflicts among the detectives, and Stevie has a romantic fling that turns out to be potentially deadly.

I enjoyed the story a lot. It has interesting characters, good character development, and a fascinatingly complex hunt for the truth. At the same time, there were points at which, with the some back and forth between the past and the present, and information (naturally) not being revealed in the order in which it happened, when I wasn't at all clear at the order in which some sets of events occurred.

It's also important to note that, while the book has what I found to be a satisfying conclusion to the immediate story, there's a definite cliffhanger luring you on to the next book.

Still a very good story, though.

I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher via Rachel's Random Resources.

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