Black Mail – Neville Steed

This book was received through the kind offices of NetGalley and Endeavour Press in exchange of an honest review

In the second and final installment in the John Black series, John is presented with that most frustrating of crimes – blackmail. John’s girlfriend/almost fiancé, Tracy, is off on a boating holiday with some family friends and he is left to solve this mystery pretty much on his own. Well, almost. There is his trusted new assistant, Babs, and his good friends, Bobby and Ashley (not sure that was the friend’s name – like I said, poor memory cells), to lend him helping hands in his hair-raising endeavors. Bearing in mind the fact that he is relatively new to the job, it was fun to see that he made some very obvious and glaring gaffes in his pursuit of finding out the truth for his client.

His client is one of those women, so often described in Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie novels who will always attract male attention by projecting the ‘damsel in distress’ image, both knowingly and unknowingly. Frankly, I thought she was extremely smart in an underhanded sort of way. Lucy Merridew approaches Johnny to find a blackmailer who sent her a human finger with the blackmail note. She is engaged to marry a really wealthy fellow and does not want his family to know about such sordid matters. Johnny must first find out what it is that she has hidden in her past that she can be blackmailed about since the lady certainly isn’t telling.

In sequel to the first Johnny Black novel, this one continues to hold on to that well-loved English humour in its prose and the delicate handling of violent and rough matters in true Agatha Christie fashion. As for all the talk about cars – well I think it adds a little something to the book for sure. How else would I ever have known about a car called LaSalle? And it is a truly beautiful thing after all. I wish I could have ‘LaSalled’ my way from one place to another.

1937lasalle-a

The plot does seem to be inordinately convoluted at times, with threads that seem to be pulling the reader in all possible directions (this was a major flaw in the book – the trying to make things unnecessarily complex) until they magically come together in the end, but altogether they make for an interesting read. So, all’s well that ends well.

I enjoyed this book in a lazy, Sunday read kind of fashion – the perfect description of a cosy mystery. Although, to be perfectly honest, probably a little less that the prequel. I really love all the permanent characters the author has created and often the mystery seems superfluous to the interactions and the camaraderie that exists between all of them. Babs is so obviously in love with Johnny and I am not really sure about Tracy being his soulmate, but since the author never wrote a third or fourth installment, I guess we will never know.

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