A Shadowed Livery

Written by Charlie Garratt
Review by Janice Ottersberg

This mystery, first in a series set in 1938 England, dramatically opens with a hanging that is chillingly narrated by Inspector James Given. He had apprehended the condemned man after a Jewish shopkeeper was beaten to death. Before the Inspector can continue the investigation to seek out the remaining gang members who participated in the atrocity, another case takes priority. He is sent to Grovestock House to review an apparent open-and-shut case of a murder and two suicides. Inspector Given and Superintendent Dyer travel into the country to Grovestock, where they find the three deaths are not clear-cut. There are a lot of secrets and lies within the Barleigh family to untangle before they form a picture of what happened and who is responsible. While at Grovestock, Given is surprised and pleased to learn that his former love interest is the housekeeper. Elizabeth abandoned the relationship years ago. Given wants to rekindle their love, but Elizabeth stays aloof. The relationship doesn’t develop much but possibly will as the series continues. In the background the political unrest of pre-WWII plays out in Germany, where Given’s family lives, and in England. The integration into the story of Given’s personal life and past feels forced. When he suddenly reveals secrets about his family and past to Dyer, it doesn’t fit seamlessly into the rest of the story.

The atmosphere and story recall a Golden Age country manor mystery with lots of secrets, lies, and deception. The beginning scene is strong, then frequently lags, but the ending is satisfying, with some twists and revelations that wrap up the mystery nicely. It is obvious that some storylines are left open for future books in this series, such as the investigation introduced at the beginning, the danger Given’s family faces in Germany, and his relationship with Elizabeth.