Jack Haldean Appreciation Post – Dolores Gordon-Smith

I started A Fete Worse Than Death in 2020, believe it or not. I’d added it to my TBR a while before that but, like the Ursula Blanchard series, avoided it because I wasn’t a huge fan of the cover art. I still think it does Jack a disservice, but I digress. Recently, almost four years later, I’ve made it to the end of the latest novel. Believe me, I wanted to binge Jack and his mysteries so hard, but I paced myself to savor the series. As far as mystery series go, I am going to do a rare thing, here, and give every single one of these books five stars.

Did I surprise you? I surprised me a little bit, too. What’s more impressive is that this series is cozy. There’s no slow-burn romance, scandalous scenes, etc. that get your heart rate up a little. There are some excitements, but nothing to make your heart lurch. The genius of this series is in the writing style, the characters, and the plots. 

I have never, ever been able to guess a solution to any of these mysteries; they’re locked-room style and incredibly complex. It’s not a style where there are a lot of red herrings; more of an unexplainable scenario that’s convoluted. I have no idea how Gordon-Smith thinks of these, but I hope that incredible brain of hers keeps going! The most similar series that I’ve read recently in terms of plot is probably the Dandy Gilver series by Catriona McPherson – if you’ve read and liked those, I think you’ll like this. Dandy Gilver is a little more humorous in its delivery, and I haven’t been able to guess any solutions to those mysteries, either. 

Gordon-Smith’s writing style is delightful; she writes in the third-person omniscient but mostly focuses on Jack. However, if someone else needs attention, they get it. The little snippets of other characters add to the stories, but you can’t always see how until the wrap-up. Gordon-Smith includes just the right amount of detail in her writing. She shows how compassionate Jack is and a little of his personal life, but doesn’t include anything excessive and doesn’t bog the story down with a slow timeline or a lot of descriptions. She’s also very neutral as a narrator; she doesn’t make the reader unnecessarily worried or overly excited for the characters, which I like. Readers like the characters for themselves, rather than how the narrator presents them. 

Let’s talk about the characters: Jack Haldean is, of course, the main focus of the series, but he couldn’t do what he does without a supporting cast. Most notable is D.S. Ashley, a local policeman who had Jack’s affections forced upon him in the first book. With Jack’s credibility due to his longtime friend D.C.I. Bill Rackham in Scotland Yard, another significant character, he and Ashley become friends, and Jack’s unofficial career begins.* Jack’s family, while not seeming incredibly involved in the first book, become more familiar over the series and contribute a lot to the success of Jack’s cases. All of Jack’s immediate friends are good-hearted, well-intentioned people who know Jack well. They help him both intentionally and unintentionally, and we get the sense that he grew closer to them after his discharge from the RAF after the end of WWI. 

We can add Dashing War Hero to Jack’s list of accomplishments, as well as Author and Detective. The war is not mentioned a lot during this series, although when it’s mentioned, we get the sense that Jack is unwilling to inflict his memories on anyone else. There’s also something unspoken about his loss of purpose after the war, and how his family may have surrounded him to help him through that. It is not a war-focused series like the Maisie Dobbs or Bess Crawford series, but it did have an impact on all the characters (and the rest of England, of course). 

If nothing I’ve said here has inspired you to read the Jack Haldean Mystery series, nothing ever will. It is simply phenomenal, and I hope Dolores Gordon-Smith keeps writing as long as she is able. If you end up reading the series and liking it, help petition her to write more books by giving them a good rating/review!

If you want to learn more about the series and/or Delores Gordon-Smith, her website is http://doloresgordon-smith.co.uk/index.htm

*Jack’s official career is a crime writer, and upon seeing that you may groan because it’s quite trope-y. But, it’s only a feature of Jack to show his creativity and to lend him a sort of debonair air as a small-time celebrity.

Published by SamIAmReading

I am an avid reader and lover of historical mysteries and romances, but happy to take review requests and expand my horizons! All opinions in this blog are my own and have been given freely.

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