REVIEW: A QUESTION OF GUILT, BY FRANCES FYFIELD

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Our first glimpse of Helen West, the prosecuting attorney in a complex murder case, reveals her studying the case files while she eats. The defendant, Stanislaus Jaskowski, of Polish origin, was a part-time private investigator, charged with the murder of one Sylvia Bernard, the wife of a solicitor, Michael Bernard. Mrs. Eileen Cartwright is listed as someone obsessed with Michael Bernard, and Jaskowski claims that she paid him to kill Sylvia.

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.

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