Sunday, March 10, 2013

Book Review: Evanly Bodies by Rhys Bowen (Constable Evan Evans #10)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Two strong stories combine in one great book
Cons: Not enough time in Llanfair; final book in the series
The Bottom Line:
Last visit to Wales
Interlocking mysteries
Series goes out strong

Strong Tenth Entry

It's hard to believe Evanly Bodies is the tenth entry in the Evan Evans mystery series. When he first met him, he was a constable working the beat in the small Welsh village of Llanfair. Since then, he's become a detective working in the plain clothes division. In the last book, he and long time girlfriend Bronwen finally married. This book picks up a couple months after that wonderful event.

The Wales police are trying something different. They are setting up Major Crime Units to respond to cases and get results faster. Evan has the honor of being placed on the very first one, and they are immediately sent out to their first crime.

A university professor has been shot through an open window while sitting at his kitchen table. The man was brash and opinionated, so the list of potential suspects is rather long. But Evan's new boss is focusing on the man's wife. She claims she was out walking her dog when the crime happened, which isn't a solid alibi. Still, Evan thinks there is more to this case then meets the eye. His theory is proved right when a second murder with the same weapon takes place in a nearby town. What is the connection between the two men?

Meanwhile, things are getting interesting in Evan's village of Llanfair. An Arab family has just bought the local grocery store and is reopening it. They represent a huge change to the status quo, and many aren't sure they like the change.

Evan's wife, Bronwen, has befriended the shop owner's daughter, Jamila. Jamila begins to open up to Bronwen, sharing the trouble brewing in her family. They are thinking of shipping her back to Pakistan to face an arranged marriage to a man much older then she is. Bronwen is concerned, but that is only heightened when Jamila vanishes. Where has she gone?

Since Evan moved up from patrol to detective, the series has spent less time in Llanfair. While I understand the need to expand the series, I miss spending time with the characters there, and savor each appearance they make. Their appearances here are fun, and the perfect counterpoint to the story.

Both mysteries are well developed. Being the sub-plot, Jamila's story stays perfectly in the background for most of the book. The main mystery of the murdered professor kept me intrigued. I had a suspicion as to what was going on, but wasn't completely sure until Evan began to put the pieces together. Both stories tie together well thematically, making this into a coherent whole.

Evan and Bronwen are the only recurring characters we spend much time with in this book. Their newly wed relationship is a joy to watch, and I enjoyed their scenes together. The many new characters were well drawn. I had no problem keeping them straight. Even the characters that had small roles were strong and memorable.

After ten books, Evanly Bodies feels like a visit with friends. While the old friends aren't around as much as I would like, the news friends are fun to meet. This is a strong mystery series, and if you've missed it, you owe it to yourself to go back and enjoy it today.

You can do so my reading the Constable Evan Evans Mysteries in order.

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