The eleventh entry in P. F. Ford’s Slater and Norman series has recently been released. Ford wrote, in an e-mail to his fans (which I received) that the publication date had been delayed due to certain family problems. Sad to report, the problems show in the book, A Fatal Deception.
The last book was pretty much all English detective Dave Slater, with almost no appearance by his former partner, Norman Norman, who is now a private investigator. In recompense, this book follows Norman (with his new partner, Naomi Darling) as they search for Jenny Radstock, Dave’s former girlfriend. Jenny has been living off and on in hiding, as a homeless person, for some time, and Norman and Naomi travel to the town where she was last seen. What they find is pretty ugly.
I remain a fan of this good-hearted mystery series, but A Fatal Deception shows all the signs of a rush job. There are a number of grammatical errors (though Ford has always been weak in that department). Bits of dialogue are rehashed twice or even, sometimes, three times. In our introduction to one character, we are treated first to a description of his personality, and then a scene where he demonstrates that description point for point. Which makes the initial description entirely redundant.
And not only was the conclusion a downer, but threads were left untied. As if author Ford couldn’t be bothered to finish the story properly.
Ford makes up for the short length of the novel by appending a novella devoted to Norman Norman celebrating a lonely Christmas. This story was more satisfactory, and left behind a pleasant, heartwarming feeling. So I don’t feel entirely cheated.
But A Fatal Deception is not up to the usual standards of a series more memorable for its likeability than for its literary qualities in the first place.