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River Deep [Paperback]

Priscilla Masters
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 28 2005
Life in Shrewsbury is normally calm and uneventful. However, when the River Severn bursts its banks, a body is discovered floating in a flooded cottage. Coroner Martha Gunn is one of the first to be called to the scene. In the fetid cottage Martha s instincts tell her that this is a homicide -- a hunch borne out by the post mortem. The victim is presumed to be the cottage s tenant, James Humphreys, who recently went missing. However, when asked to identify the body, his wife Cressida is adamant that it is not her husband. Martha Gunn is left with many perplexing questions. Who, then, is the victim? Why has he been murdered? And where has the real Mr. Humphreys gone?"

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Review

"River Deep is a simmering mystery, set in a seemingly peaceful town in England. But a terrible murder has committed, of a man who cannot be positively identified -- and with another man gone missing. A female coroner must question her instincts concerning the death, before more crime is unleashed upon the defenseless village in this tense page-turner." -- The Midwest Book Review's "The Bookwatch"

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Most helpful customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars intriguing plot marred by bad pacing... May 27 2004
By tregatt
Format:Hardcover
In the middle of making sure that all the inhabitants of River Terrace in the historic town of Shrewsbury have evacuated (the River Severn has burst its banks), the police make the startling discovery of a body in one of the houses. The house that the body was found in had been rented by James Humphreys, and the police, naturally, assume that the body is that of Humphreys; except that when Humphreys' wife turns up, she categorically denies that the body is that of her husband's. So if the body isn't James Humphreys', what was the dead man doing in the house that Humphreys rented? And why was he wearing Humphreys' clothes? And when the autopsy shows that the dead man was murdered in the house (the cellar actually), and then left there, Coroner Martha Gunn discovers the this particular case has captured her interest in a way that few others have. And she cannot help but want to be part of the investigation. And so, even though she shouldn't, Martha finds herself taking a hand in the investigation...
I had high expectations of "River Deep," unfortunately, my hopes were not met. The plot was a very intriguing one, unfortunately the pacing was really off -- the flow was uneven and the story unfolded in fits and starts. And there was a scarcity of clues and suspects (red herrings or otherwise) -- this really frustrated me! Also halfway through the book, the novel's heroine, Martha Gunn, seems to have figured out what was going on before the police. Now how she was able to do this really stumped me -- perhaps I'm not as intelligent as I think I am! -- but I began to feel really sympathetic towards the blundering in the dark police officers. The other thing that frustrated me was that the authour had tagged on a small stalking subplot to the novel.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A simmering mystery June 6 2004
Format:Hardcover
River Deep is a simmering mystery, set in a seemingly peaceful town in England. But a terrible murder has committed, of a man who cannot be positively identified - and with another man gone missing. A female coroner must question her instincts concerning the death, before more crime is unleashed upon the defenseless village in this tense page-turner.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.5 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars intriguing plot marred by bad pacing... May 27 2004
By tregatt - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
In the middle of making sure that all the inhabitants of River Terrace in the historic town of Shrewsbury have evacuated (the River Severn has burst its banks), the police make the startling discovery of a body in one of the houses. The house that the body was found in had been rented by James Humphreys, and the police, naturally, assume that the body is that of Humphreys; except that when Humphreys' wife turns up, she categorically denies that the body is that of her husband's. So if the body isn't James Humphreys', what was the dead man doing in the house that Humphreys rented? And why was he wearing Humphreys' clothes? And when the autopsy shows that the dead man was murdered in the house (the cellar actually), and then left there, Coroner Martha Gunn discovers the this particular case has captured her interest in a way that few others have. And she cannot help but want to be part of the investigation. And so, even though she shouldn't, Martha finds herself taking a hand in the investigation...
I had high expectations of "River Deep," unfortunately, my hopes were not met. The plot was a very intriguing one, unfortunately the pacing was really off -- the flow was uneven and the story unfolded in fits and starts. And there was a scarcity of clues and suspects (red herrings or otherwise) -- this really frustrated me! Also halfway through the book, the novel's heroine, Martha Gunn, seems to have figured out what was going on before the police. Now how she was able to do this really stumped me -- perhaps I'm not as intelligent as I think I am! -- but I began to feel really sympathetic towards the blundering in the dark police officers. The other thing that frustrated me was that the authour had tagged on a small stalking subplot to the novel. This was NOT resolved at all, and Martha, the victim of this stalking simply shrugs it off!! I must be the only person to have found this development baffling and disturbing since neither the authour nor her editors were too worried about this. Ultimately however it was the poor and uneven pacing together with the scarcity of clues and suspects that made this a 2 star read for me.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Had Promise, But. . . May 29 2008
By Kathleen Chamberlain - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I began this book with high hopes: the cover blurb sounded interesting, the premise of a female coroner-investigator was intriguing, and the book didn't seem to have been a "best-seller" anywhere (the words "best-seller" being a tip-off to mainstream blandness and predictability). Plus, I was really in the market for a good, new voice on the British police-procedural scene. I've read all the books by my current faves, so until they start writing faster, I'm always on the lookout for fresh meat. Thus I was primed to like Priscilla Masters.

Alas. My first Priscilla Masters novel will probably be my last. I heard alarm bells on the opening page, when the narrator seemed to like one ponderous, trite line so well ("You cannot tame nature") that she followed it almost immediately with another ("You cannot contain nature"). But I tried not to listen to the alarms because, as I said, I wanted to find a compelling new writer, and besides, it's not fair to dismiss a story based on a couple of cliches. So I pressed on, keeping up my optimism even while picking a few more nits (such as a police surgeon in her 50s being described as "elderly").

By the middle of the book, though, I had reluctantly given up hope. If style is not Masters' strength, neither is plot. This one is as leaky, debris-filled, and over-the-top as the flooding river Severn with which the novel opens. I was willing to accept (sort of) that the cops would let the coroner muscle into their investigations the way our heroine Martha does, since what do I know from coroners? Maybe they *do* call up senior detectives and offer suggestions on how to investigate a major case. Maybe they *do* carry on their own undercover operations without telling anyone or without worrying whether their actions might eventually compromise a trial. For all I know, the cops might even allow the coroner to watch them interrogate suspects, the way they do here.

But would the cops really let the coroner *conduct* the interrogations of major suspects in a case where guilt (let alone conviction) is by no means assured -- and where the cops haven't even had a chance to investigate the coroner's seemingly off-the-wall murder theory? Wouldn't a defense attorney go to town over this sort of irregularity?

Well, maybe the legal system works this way in Shrewsbury. And even if it doesn't, no one ever said that a detective novel had to be totally factually accurate to be good. But it does have to be psychologically accurate to be good, and this book isn't. Like a previous Amazon reviewer, I was baffled by Martha's non-response to being stalked (she has only a few fleeting moments of concern, despite living alone with her two pre-teens in a significantly isolated house). And as for the solution to the murders. . .I suppose it's possible that people might think and act in this way, but before I can be convinced, I need a lot more psychological exploration of character than this book provides (or at least more of the authorial legerdemain that allows a writer to pull off an implausible premise.) Paging Patricia Highsmith. . .
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Slow going. Feb. 25 2014
By AB - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is the first book I've read by Priscilla Masters. I like a book with a lot of dialog, as I feel they read "faster". This is not one of those. I feel like I am plodding along until I eventually I reach the end. It seems like I am reading for hours and hours, but barely finish a chapter. I purchased the 2nd volume in the series at the same time I bought this one, so I will wait to completely pass judgement until I finish this one --- if I ever do.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A simmering mystery June 6 2004
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
River Deep is a simmering mystery, set in a seemingly peaceful town in England. But a terrible murder has committed, of a man who cannot be positively identified - and with another man gone missing. A female coroner must question her instincts concerning the death, before more crime is unleashed upon the defenseless village in this tense page-turner.
5.0 out of 5 stars River Deep Aug. 31 2014
By Damaskcat - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Martha Gunn, Coroner, becomes involved in a case in which a corpse appears from a flooded cellar when the River Severn floods Shrewsbury. The peaceful town isn't used to murder and when another violent death happens shortly afterwards it seems irresistible to assume that the two are connected though at first the police, in the shape of DI Alex Randall, cannot see that the two men could have known each other.

I found this compelling reading and I had to keep on until I finished it. I like Martha Gunn as a character and the way she battles for justice for the dead, even venturing into a bit of detection work herself - strictly against the rules. While endeavouring to do her demanding job to the best of her ability, Martha is bringing up her twins alone following the early death of her husband. She is developing a friendship with Alex Randall and he is starting to rely on her as a sounding board and as a source of good ideas.

This is the first book in the series featuring Martha Gunn and Alex Randall. If you like your crime with a well-constructed plot and well-drawn characters then this may be the series for you.
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