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Murder in Thrall by Anne Cleeland (review)

Murder In Thrall - Anne Cleeland

 

First-year Detective Kathleen Doyle is a plucky Irish redhead. Chief Inspector Michael Acton is a British lord turned cop. He's tall, handsome and enigmatic...to a fault. Acton selects Doyle out of the newbie squad to partner with him on a series of investigations because she always knows when someone is lying - a trait that comes in handy when interviewing suspects and witnesses. Acton and Doyle are sent to investigate the murder of a trainer at a racetrack. Soon, new killings related to the first start unfolding, dragging the two into ever more perilous situations. But the real danger is the unlikely attachment that develops between the ultra reserved aristocratic Chief Inspector and his plucky working class sidekick...a relationship that will raise plenty of eyebrows-and hackles-among their colleagues at the Yard. (blurb from Amazon)
 
Based on the description, I would never ordinarily have downloaded this book because of all the red flags in the blurb:  the plucky (used twice in a single blurb!) Irish redhead, the enigmatic member of the peerage who is also a DCI, etc., and because of those flags, the likelihood that I would be left with no choice but to hurl my reader at the wall before the 50-page mark.
 
I am astonished to report that I not only finished Murder in Thrall, but I finished it in one big gulp, and am looking forward to the next installment.
 
The plot is roughly what is indicated in the blurb, and to describe it in much more detail would constitute spoilers since the plot is not especially complex, and to anyone who habitually reads mysteries, the identity and motivation for the killer is obvious almost as soon as the character is introduced.  What kept me engaged was how the author played with familiar romancelandia tropes, especially uber-controlling alphas.  In contrast, here is a conversation that you would never see in the average romance:
 
...she caught a glimpse of some emotion so intense it nearly suffocated her.  "I have to tell you something."
  Oh--it was bad, she could feel it.  He is married, she thought in panic.  Or he has former girlfriends all buried in the basement--
  "I am a Section Seven."
  A silence followed the quiet words.  They stood, their gazes locked whilst she tried to hide her astonishment.  It was the pure truth, and it was a reference to the Stalking Act.  Be very careful here, my girl, she thought; do not panic.  "I see.  Is it only me, or are there others?
  "Only you."  The intensity began to dissipate, now that he had made his confession.
  "Misdemeanor or felony?"
  He thought about it for a moment.  "Felony."
  She raised her brows.  "Oh.  That is impressive."
 
Doyle thinks of both herself and Acton as being essentially freaks, she because of her ability to read the emotions of others, and he because he is--in her own words--probably certifiable.  And somehow, it all works, and draws you in, and you end up caring quite a bit about this extremely odd couple.
 
Other odds and ends:
 
Kathleen Doyle is Roman Catholic, and this is an integral part of her character, not just  background color.  What a refreshing change that is.
 
While supposedly set in London, there is not a very strong sense of place, and the details of the police setting are not filled out very well--you just have to kind of close your eyes and go with it.  
 
Most of the story is told from Doyle's viewpoint, but each chapter begins with a few lines from Acton's perspective, and the epilogue reveals even more of his thoughts and backstory.
 
All in all, an engaging start to this new mystery series.