There’s something that’s so perfect about a British period mystery with a tight little plot, a dastardly villain, a strong central character and the authorial gumption to carry it all off. Barbara Cleverly has all of those elements and just the kind of writing power to make her 10th novel featuring Scotland Yard Assistant Commissioner Joe Sandilands a welcome addition to the series.
NOT MY BLOOD kicks off with young Jackie Drummond calling Sandilands in an emergency. It seems the boy has run away from his boarding school because he believes that he will be arrested for the stabbing death of one of his teachers. Intrigued, Sandilands begins an investigation of the St. Magnus School along with the local Sussex inspector, and also encounters a young form master who turns out to be an MI5 operative.
This individual is working at the school at the request of a well-connected mother whose son has disappeared. As the investigation looks into the murdered man’s past, they find that he has been assembling a dossier of young students, all of whom seem to have disappeared from the rolls of St. Magnus. A disturbing pattern emerges.
Cleverly handles all this relatively well, though there is a certain “coyness” she adds where she doesn’t quite tell us what is going on, even though most readers will instantly figure out to what it is she’s referring.
It’s unnecessary and bloats the book. But it’s still a fun read with a serious message, Sandilands and Dorcas Joliffe are fascinating characters, and if you’re a fan of period English mysteries, you’ll want to take a look at this series. —Mark Rose