I love a good locked-room mystery and that’s essentially what Jim Kelly’s Death Wore White (out June 9) is, except it takes place outdoors. One winter evening during a blizzard, eight drivers are trapped after taking a detour down a small road surrounded by a wide ditch on one side and marshland on the other. A felled pine tree lies across the road, making it impassable, and the last car in line somehow gets stuck sideways, preventing the drivers from backing out. And of course, they’re in a black hole with no cell signal.
When the police arrive about three hours later, they find a corpse behind the wheel of the lead vehicle. No one at the scene saw the murder and there are no incriminating footprints in the snow surrounding the truck. How can this be? Furthermore, the viciousness of the stabbing would have resulted in a lot of blood in the truck and on the killer, but there’s none on any of the other drivers and only a small amount in the cab, implying the man was killed elsewhere. What the hell?!
Detective Inspector Peter Shaw (Scotland Yard’s youngest DI) and his partner, George Valentine, catch the case on the same night they find the corpse of another man washed up on a nearby beach. Before they can get to the bottom of either mystery, more bodies pile up and the puzzle becomes more puzzling. Shaw and Valentine are also dealing with unspoken tension between them resulting from a twelve-year-old case involving a murdered boy which Valentine worked with Shaw’s father, Jack. Valentine and the senior Shaw were accused of planting evidence in that case and Jack eventually died of heartbreak from disappointment. While dealing with all the murders happening on his watch, Peter is also re-investigating the cold case to maybe clear his father’s name.
Death Wore White is interesting in that it reads like an old Agatha Christie novel but the detectives text-message each other and the story is very much a contemporary one. Jim Kelly piles on a lot of subplots and many twists but he deftly juggles them and resolves everything by the end. Except for one subplot, which sets up the next novel featuring Shaw and Valentine. I normally get annoyed when all mysteries aren’t cleared up but in this case, it makes me really eager to see what happens next in this new series.
Nerd verdict: White will suit most mystery fans