Accidental Murder

Reviewed by Andy Smart

The question which eventually confronts every fictional detective is, "did he fall or was he pushed?". The murder made to look like an accident is one of the great staples of mystery fiction and has been used for many years to great effect; in fact as readers of crime novels we all know that whenever a detective is called to the scene of an accident it will turn out to be a murder, we are that sensitive to plot devices. However the fact that a plot feature is well-used doesn't' make it bad or boring - think how dull the genre would be if the person found holding the smoking gun was actually guilty (though this twist has been used effectively in the past)!

In Accidental Murder Claire McNab's heroine Detective Inspector Carol Ashton is called to investigate the fall from Sydney Harbour's scenic North Head of retired sea captain John Trelawney. At first it appears that he merely lost his footing while enjoying the view and plummeted to his death. However while investigating the evidence suggests that it may not have been an accident after all. A close friend, personal investigator Ren Dowling has been investigating deaths for insurance companies and finds that Trelawney's death fits into a pattern of deaths on which his clients have paid out. Her partner Mark Bourke is more worried that Dowling will offer her a job and that she'll leave the police force.

Of more concern to Carol is the health of her beloved Aunt Sarah, found of wisdom and founder member of the eco crones environmental pressure group, who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Ashton has to juggle her time between finding the killer or killers and looking after her aunt. To make matters worse there are still unresolved issues between Ashton, Sarah and ex-partner Sybil.

Accidental Murder is the fourteenth novel in the Carol Ashton series, a series which has seen its heroine develop as both a police officer and a person, dealing with the issues of the glass ceiling, the choices of private life or career and of coming out. Letting Ashton's life change and develop is one of the keys ingredients which has kept this series fresh and interesting for so long.

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