Saturday, November 18, 2017

Book Review: 'A Sacrificial Matter' by Ilona Fridl

Amos and Sarah Darcy are called in by the local sheriff to help investigate a very strange death. Who on earth would kill a man with a broadsword and leave the body in a graveyard?
This is a really interesting book that captured my attention in the first few pages and didn’t let go. I haven’t read anything previously by this author and that is certainly my loss. Despite some old-fashioned language (which was a delightful surprise and lent the book an air of authenticity seeing as the time period is the 1920s) I caught on to almost everything very quickly and soon found myself completely involved in the story and Amos and Sarah in particular. The author has clearly gone to a lot of work and effort to make the setting and backdrop of her world authentic – like comments on how their brand new Oldsmobile was Amos’ pride and joy and Sarah had only just been “allowed” to drive it alone recently, or how they called a tape measure a “tape rule”, small things like this which made me pause, but I could quickly and easily understand what it meant. This is one of those few times jarring me during reading is welcome – it reminded me this story was set in the past and really gave it an air of a old-style mystery and greatly enhanced my enjoyment of the story.
I believe that this is not the first book with Amos and Sarah Darcy in it. Their relationship is already solidly formed and they are married and share a child. It’s clear they’ve been doing their detective work for quite some time. Despite this I entered this book cold (having never read anything by this author or about these characters before) and at no stage did I feel like I was left behind or lacking in back story. I admit to being incredibly curious about Amos and Sarah – I’d love to read more work about them when they first met, or the start of their relationship – but this actually proves to me just how well the story is written. I’m curious, wanting to know more. I’m not feeling as if I’ve been dropped in the middle of a story and world I don’t comprehend, it’s not a lost feeling – just an excitement to find a new author’s voice and characters I really enjoy. And that was a great pleasure for me.
While the plot and mystery was interesting, it wasn’t overly complex. There was a small hint of the occult/paranormal in that the murder had a few ritualistic items surrounding it. I enjoyed the interactions between the characters and found myself picking up the clues as the plot progressed. Readers who like deeply complex, multi-layered plots might find this one a bit light, but I personally found it satisfying when coupled with the interesting characters, the older style of background (the older speech patterns, older investigative patterns etc) and found this short story quite engaging and satisfying. While the love and affection between Amos and Sarah is obvious, they’re a well-settled character and the time setting doesn’t lend itself to any outrageous, outward shows of that love and affection. I’d happily recommend this story to my friends and just as easily my mother or grandmother. It’s a timeless classic style of mystery and an author I certainly plan to keep an eye out for. Recommended.

Editor's note: This article was originally published at Long and Short ReviewsIt has been republished with permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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