Dive Headlong into this 21-book series
Mystery buffs and Anglophiles: if you haven’t encountered Bill Slider yet, you have a feast of reading ahead of you. The prolific, tongue-in-cheek British author Cynthia Harrod-Eagles has just issued her 21st book in the series, and it is sufficiently entertaining that even if you haven’t read the previous 20, you’re likely to start right in without any introduction. (Of course, the more you know about the good-hearted, imaginative English policeman and the characters surrounding him, the more you’ll enjoy the latest book.)
“Headlong” is a good description of what happens to the murder victim of the title, an important literary and society gentleman who has apparently fallen out of his apartment window by accident. That’s what everyone thinks, at least—but Detective Chief Inspector Slider is suspicious of a few details at the crime scene and believes there’s more to discover.
The deceased, a popular publishing figure with a long and tangled history of love affairs, is loved by just about everyone. Except, of course, by his killer. Is it an ex-wife, one of his many disappointed girlfriends, a business rival, a jealous husband? Perhaps an angry would-be author, or an irate publisher? All the witnesses Slider interviews claim that he was universally loved. But Slider thinks someone hated him enough to commit murder.
Searching down a variety of avenues full of evidence, Slider hits one dead end after another. A cast of often hilarious authors, poseurs, vacuous society types, and Slider’s earnest fellow sleuths enrich the process. So does Harrod-Eagles’s nifty, descriptive prose style: Jim Atherton, Slider’s sergeant and friend, expertly drives through heavy London traffic “slipping like a salmon between two cars to enter the white water of the West Cross roundabout.”
We also encounter the continuing saga of Slider’s and Atherton’s home life and love interests, with all the attendant complications. In particular, Slider and his Joanna (a professional freelance violinist who plays with several major orchestras) must juggle the highly irregular hours and demands of their careers, and their greatly loved little son, as they find a way forward as a couple.
Headlong, like all the novels in this series, is what you’d call a “police procedural,” a genre I don’t often read. But I happily make an exception for this series, which gets my enthusiastic recommendation. Even if you read the books out of order, Harrod-Eagles makes it easy for you to fall right into this milieu and its entertaining cast of characters.
Melinda Bargreen is a Seattle-based writer and composer whose career at The Seattle Times began in 1977. Her choral works include the “Norwegian Folksong Suite.” Melinda contributes to many publications and is the author of Seattle Opera’s 50-year history book. She holds B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of Washington, and a doctorate from the University of California, Irvine.
This article originally appeared in the April 5, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.