I used to be a beanpole, just below six foot of skin, muscle and bone, but now, when I showered in the morning, it was like navigating the Yorkshire Dales.
It is a melancholy thing to come to the end of a book series you’re enjoying a lot. I don’t know if Stan Jackson intends to write any more Perry Webster novels – he’s kind of running out of hair colors. Peroxide? Titian? Dishwater?
Anyway, Redhead is the fourth in the series, and perhaps the best, depending on your preferences. Author Jackson gets better as he goes.
At the risk of spoiling it for people who haven’t finished the previous book, I have to tell you that Perry is married now, to Julia Emburey, the headmistress of a prep school. Julia thinks she has no relations, but is startled to learn she has a cousin – in France. Perry and Julia travel to the home of this woman, Gabrielle Dupont (originally Gale Emburey) who is very rich. Julia had known of Gabrielle’s father, her uncle, who was accused of murdering his wife and disappeared with his baby daughter. Now she learns that he went to France, where he changed his identity and had considerable business success.
Gabrielle says that her late father was innocent of the murder. She would like Perry to investigate the cold case. If he can vindicate her father, Gabrielle will make a major (and much needed) contribution to Julia’s school.
Both of them dislike Gabrielle from the start, but the money is tempting, and what harm could there be in righting an old injustice?
There was another suspect in the case, the “redhead” of the title – a French au pair who also disappeared at the time of the murder. But she had no apparent motive. Perry begins questioning friends and associates from those days, asking questions that most of them find puzzling, but that one of them finds absolutely threatening…
I enjoyed Redhead, as I have enjoyed the whole series. The writing has always been good, and the plotting has improved from book to book.
I’m happy that Perry has found a satisfying marriage, though I’m not entirely sold on Julia. She’s great most of the time, but occasionally she exhibits a prickly, feminist humorlessness that puts me off. No doubt female readers will react differently.
There’s an odd element in this one related to religion. Perry visits a sort of modern hippie commune, where they teach what seems to be a rationalized Christianity. “Grace” is their watchword, but without all that supernatural stuff. No doubt that seems positive to the contemporary English; I don’t think it holds up in practice. You’ve got to deal with original sin – a topic which, ironically, gets mentioned in passing.
I should note that at one point author Jackson uses the phrase “begging the question” correctly. Full marks for that! A rare pleasure in contemporary books.
Also, there’s a chilling anticlimax.
Good book, and recommended. I’ll read the next, if there is one. Mousy? Bald?