A Question of Guilt
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From Publishers Weekly
This first novel by a London solicitor is wonderfully British, devilishly intricate and, once the reader settles in, compelling indeed. Eileen Cartwright, a rich, middle-aged widow of less than lofty moral standards, arranges the murder of her solicitor's wife, under the mistaken impression that the act will win his affections. But the hired murderer, would-be private detective Stanislaus Jaskowski, is caught almost immediately--and confesses all. The trying task of proving the widow Cartwright's role in the crime falls to police superintendent Geoffrey Bailey and prosecutor Helen West--who are slowly and deliciously drawn together personally and professionally. While the case comes to involve Jaskowski's sons, Edward and Peter, the horrifying truth is revealed as the reader gradually learns the motives driving each of the marvelously drawn characters in this auspicious first volume in Pocket's new hardcover mystery series. Major ad/promo; BOMC alternate.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
This is another Helen West book...in this one she is involved in a really bizarre murder trial.
My thoughts after reading this book...
I am in bookish love with this author. In my mind she is every bit as good...if not better than...Elizabeth George, Alan Bradley, and Deborah Crombie. This book was intense, extremely well plotted and filled with the kind of characters you will love and the kind that you will love to hate! There were even two precious cats in this book! One was Bailey's and one was Helen's...yummy British kitties!
So...because this is a mystery I will give nothing away except for this...Helen is involved in a case and the defendant...Eileen...comes to hate her horribly and from prison plots Helen's demise. The plot is complicated, tricky and intricate. I have been reading these out of order but I truly don't think that matters. This is the book where she meets Bailey...her love interest in this book as well as in future books. They are both involved in this case. Eileen is the woman in jail initially for hiring a man named Stanislaus to murder the wife of the man she is obsessed with. When he is caught Eileen begins to manipulate Ed...Stanislaus's son. Ed appears to be quite a brutish evil person...even though he is youngish. And then there is Peter...another son...younger than Ed. He has a sort of accidental infatuation with Helen, Helen's garden, and Helen's cat.
Eileen appears to be a thoroughly evil and unstable person...sort of big, ungainly, ill treated by her father...thus her hatred of "attractive" women.
What I loved about this book...
Oh my word I loved it all...Helen and Bailey, Helen baking puffy scones with Peter, Helen and Bailey's cat. I loved the descriptions of their flats, their food , their dealings with each other. I loved that on their first "date" Bailey straightened out Helen's crooked shelves. I loved that they both loved reading mysteries! I love the way this author uses words!
What I did not love...
OMG...Eileen and Ed were the most awful creepy characters around. I despised both of them. Eileen because she thought she was so clever and Ed for what he did to Helen and also for the way he treated his brother Peter!
I can not tell you enough how much I loved this book. Cozy, quirky, British loveliness in a book impossible to put down!
Thank you Edelweiss and Amazon for this book!
I probably will not bother with the other books in the series.
At the first hearing for Jaskowski, Eileen Cartwright shows up. Bailey tells Helen that Jaskowski's wife is also there. Helen encourages Eileen to leave or she won't like the consequences. This incurs Ms. Cartwright's enmity, which is not surprising. Later, it's stated that even Jaskowski's wife didn't show up. What? Or maybe that's at some other time? It's kind of all the same.
This is supposed to be some sort of mystery...I think. But it is not mysterious. It is formulaic. There is the obligatory romance between Helen and Bailey, the head detective. Oh, how tentative and unsure of themselves they are. There is also a detective, Ryan, who cheats on his wife, for no apparent reason, except that he doesn't want to go home, because he's a policeman, you know, and home life just can't compare to police excitement. Ryan falls in love with a twenty year old nanny, whose employers are fine with him coming over all the time (into her room) because they want to make sure their nanny is happy!
The head detective does not know what a psychopath is. He thinks Eileen Cartwright is not one (she clearly is). The only reason given for Eileen's psychological makeup is that she is very unattractive (although Bailey says she is in a way, like a lizard or fat snake). Her father didn't love her because of this (or maybe he couldn't love anyone?), nor did her husband (but he married her anyway). Eileen has black hair, is sallow, "broad" and smokes forty cigarettes per day. She owns shops that sell little things, like lace and tiny antique items.
Jaskowski has three sons - Ed, Peter and Stanislaus (the youngest). His brother, Peter, takes the three boys after Jaskowski goes to jail, because Jaskowski's wife falls apart or something. Strangely, the son, Peter, is named Peter, Jr. They must do things differently in England.
The son Ed is evil. You know something bad is coming up, you know for whom, and you know that that somebody is going to be rescued at the last second.
Too wordy, too boring, too predictable.
In her office, which is comfortable but untidy, she works, and soon is joined by Geoffrey Bailey and his colleague, Mr. Ryan, where they go over the file.
The author lays out the cozy settings, gives vivid descriptions of the characters, and offers us an opportunity to listen in on the discussions in which they are involved in such a way that completely engaged me. Over the following pages, the plot unfolds, as even more characters are introduced and we come to see the intricacies of how they fit into the big picture.
Many of the characters were unlikeable. Jaskowski's son, Edward, who had a secret liaison with Eileen Cartwright at some point; and even Ryan, the underling to Geoffrey Bailey, who makes some pathetic choices. Mrs. Cartwright's pure evil is slowly unleashed on someone else. Who will save the day? How does Peter, Edward's younger brother, fit into the rescue?
The twisted plot did keep me reading, and I liked the sections with Helen and Geoffrey the best. A budding romance between them kept things interesting. There were numerous subplots and other characters that had peripheral roles in the story, and I could have done without them. Overall, I enjoyed A Question of Guilt: A Helen West Mystery, but sections of the story bogged down for me. An overall 4.0 stars.