Bowen, Rhys. Evans Above.

NY: St. Martin, 1997.

My wife is a fan of cozies, and “Rhys Bowen” (nom de plume of Janet Quin-Harkin) has become one of her favorite authors. Though she has at least three series under way under this name (which accounts for only about one-third of her published books, actually), this was the first novel in the first series, and it’s not bad.

The protagonist is Constable Evan Evans, village copper in a small community in the shadow of Snowdon in north Wales. He had lived in the big city (relatively speaking) of Swansea and underwent detective training there, but then there were some traumatic events in his family and he retreated to what he hoped would be a more peaceful and less violent environment. Unfortunately for Evans, his peace and quiet are shattered when two dead bodies turn up in his mountains on the same day. And a little girl has been murdered, the principal suspect for the crime being a child molester on early release from prison. And, to top it all off, a local mentally unstable man has also been released early from the funny farm and may be involved in one or more of the killings. But Evans has other problems, too, including Betsy, the over-sexed bar maid at the Red Dragon Pub who has designs on his freedom, and Bronwen, the willowy, ladylike young schoolteacher whom he’s cautiously becoming interested in himself. And then there’s Detective Sgt. Watkins from HQ, who isn’t a bad bloke when you get to know him, and the Major, who may or may not be what he purports to be, and his landlady, who insists on feeding him three huge meals a day, just to keep his strength up. The village of Llanfair becomes a character, too, with Evans the Meat and Evans the Milk always in a tussle over their competitive chapels across the street from each other, and Evans the Post reading everyone’s mail. (The Constable, inevitably, has become Evans the Law.) The nature of Welshness is also a theme. The prose isn’t too purple, the humor is mostly on the quiet side, and the action is believable. A pretty good opener to the series. (And, although I’ve seen complaints that there are too many similarities to M. C. Beaton’s “Hamish Macbeth” mystery series, I’ve never read any of those so it isn’t going to bother me.)

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Published in: on 21 January 2013 at 9:24 am  Leave a Comment  
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