The Scent Of Death by Betty Rowlands

The Scent of DeathDallington Manor Hotel is the venue for an annual music weekend, but not everybody is getting on with everyone else. Lance Rainbird in particular seems to rub people the wrong way, and soon, he’s found floating the lake. Initially believed to be an accident, things soon begin to point to Rainbird’s death being murder.

DC Sukey Reynolds and DS Vicky Armstrong are assigned to the case and soon the deaths have escalated. Is it possible that the death was an accident after all? And what about the other two deaths – even if one death was an accident, then one of the victims certainly didn’t accidently strangle themselves…

Thanks to Severn House for the review copy of this book. I was looking around for a new author to try – Betty Rowlands is only the third new author on this blog this year, a fact about which I’m rather embarrassed by, to be honest. And while she’s new to me, she’s certainly written her fair share of detective books – this is the thirteenth Sukey Reynolds book, and there’s an earlier series – Melissa Craig Mysteries – that runs to nine books as well.

How to describe it… probably a cross between a cosy mystery and a police procedural. The cosy element manifests itself in a few different ways. The deaths are as you would expect in a cosy – basically clean and clinical. The police force is free from the dodgy characters than normally populate the fictional police stations across the land. And no one gets particularly concerned about three deaths occurring in rapid succession – which I found a little odd, to be honest. It’s only later in the book, as murder is confirmed that some tension kicks in. I would have thought that three deaths at a single location would be assigned to someone with a higher rank than Detective Sergeant – a DI takes charge later in the book, but I’d have expected them to be on the scene a little earlier.

It’s an odd book in a few ways – it’s a competently constructed mystery, although the clues are a little short on the ground. I found the leads to be somewhat anonymous, but remember, I’m coming into the series at book thirteen – while there is some development in Sukey’s life, she comes across as something of a blank slate. I imagine that if I’d read the rest of the series, then I would have connected to her a little more, but I came away with questions without answers, such as, if she’s the brains, why is she only a DC?

It’s a pleasant read, which nicely picks up pace in the second half. There is, however, a very odd sequence towards the end when after catching the killer, the police discuss why he could be innocent, which doesn’t seem to go anywhere – I was expecting a twist at this point. I do wish that I’d read some of the earlier books to get more of the back story. Do keep an eye out for it at your local library and let me know what you think – or if you’ve read any of Betty Rowlands’ other works. Is there any in particular that I should be looking out for?



    • Yeah, it tries to tread a line between two genres and never quite manages either totally satisfactorily. It’s weaknesses are becoming more evident as I read Kate Ellis’s The Blood Pit – but more on that soon…


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