It's long been my practice to start a new-to-me book series with the first one (or at least one of the first two or three) when possible. But this time, thanks to the opportunity from Netgalley.com to read and review it at no cost, I decided to give it a go because the description sounded intriguing. Hopefully, I said to myself as I booted it up on my Kindle, my decision wouldn't put me at a disadvantage.
It didn't. Of course, I'm pretty sure there are earlier relationships and nuances therein that flew over my head in this one, the 7th in the series featuring English antiques dealer Lina Townend; but at no time did I feel lost or wonder what happened previously. I admit, however, to scratching my head (even turning to Google a few times) over the meanings of some of the very British words and phrases - and that's despite having a London-reared daughter-in-law and her brother close by so I'm somewhat accustomed to language from across the Pond. But I'm always open to learning; here, I ran across a particularly delightful expression when a would-be suitor was said to be a "posh toe-rag" (the meaning of that one came through loud and clear, and I already know a person who fits that description perfectly).
Lina, it seems, is quite a talented and sought-after fixer-upper of fine china, although given all her other activities - including Pilates, learning to dance and staffing her booth at trade shows - it doesn't seem she actually spends much time in the workshop. The story begins as she irritates an unlikable but important customer, all the while being concerned that her gay business partner and "protector," the elderly Griff, might be picking up loose ends with a and unsavory former love. Then, she drives past one of the historic churches that dot the countryside, and what to her wandering eyes did appear but two men -- clearly are in the throes of a robbery.
The police are called in, and Lina heads back home to learn about a very frail elderly woman who lives nearby and is in need of help; could it be that someone is taking advantage of her physical and mental disabilities and stealing her valuables? Lina sets out to set things right (and, if in fact thievery is involved, identifying the culprit).
As if this weren't enough, there's soon a rash of break-ins at other historic churches, and Lina must deal with her father, who's a British Lord with a very checkered past (no doubt he's been a recurring character, but I found him so unpleasant that I won't cry if he never appears again). Throw in a couple of potential suitors for Lina and a couple of attempts on her life - presumably intended to throw a monkey wrench in her nosy nature - and there's plenty going on. Most of the action is downplayed, though, with more emphasis on the characters themselves - so don't expect a thrill-a-minute romp from beginning to end.
While I won't call it anywhere near the most exciting mystery I've ever read, the writing here is quite good, and I won't hesitate to read future installments. That said, I do have one complaint that has nothing to do with the writing: Could the publisher please, pretty please, shorten the overly long paragraphs - many of which exceed an entire Kindle page - and add a line space between each of them? It would make reading so much easier!
Guilty as Sin by Judith Cutler (Severn House Publishers, December 2015); 224 pp.