FIRE IN THE RECTORY and two more John Nolan detective novellas

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Fire in the Rectory, Death Threat for Mr. Hughes, and Murder at the Met are a set of three novellas about private detective John Nolan. These three actually comprise the second book about John Nolan’s adventures, but it isn’t necessary to read the first to follow along. You only need a good enjoyment of historical mystery.

All three have perfectly descriptive titles, but each tale has twists and turns I could never manage to predict. Was the fire an accident or arson? Is Mr. Hughes truly the sort of man he seems? If the most obvious suspect did indeed commit the murder, where is his weapon? I didn’t even try to guess the answers to these questions but merely let the story take me along for the ride.

Set in the 1910s, the novellas capture the time and place beautifully, without any needless comment on the morals of the time. The author doesn’t indulge in sexism or racism under the guise of “historical accuracy” but merely presents people as they would have been. Yes, many of his characters do espouse views that are distasteful to modern readers, but the author trusts those readers to be able to know their own opinion on such matters and not rely on editorial comments. (For any who are worried that they will be surrounded by such views, worry not. John Nolan is a decent man, one who I as a young woman would have gladly read more of.)

Of all the stories, the last is easily my favorite. While the other two are excellent stories, this is the one that held my attention most as a mystery. It could be because, since I was a young girl, I’ve been fonder of murder mysteries than any other sort, simply because the most is at stake. It’s also, however, the one which had the fewest details about Nolan’s life. Overall, these aren’t the sort of mysteries where little exists but the work. The moments Nolan shares with his wife, Sheenagh, are sweet and bring an additional dimension to the hard-working man. The world-building (if I can call it that when we’re in the real world) brings life into the stories and makes them more than a cut-and-dried mystery. When the world is alive, the characters are alive, and when the characters are alive, the audience has a reason to care.

As I said before, these novellas can be read without having read The Dutton Girl, the first of the John Nolan novels. I will, however, be on the lookout for that book, along with any that come next.

Reviewed By:

Author Stan Freeman
Star Count /5
Format eBook
Page Count 218 pages
Publisher Hampshire House Publishing Co.
Publish Date 2019-03-15
ISBN 9780989333399
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue Mar-19
Category Historical Fiction


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