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A Spider on the Stairs

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  • Posted February 28, 2012

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    Christmas in England this year is dismal. The foul weather in Yorkshire does little to help Phillip Bethancourt's mood as he faces the prospect of poor weather and poor company in the form of his stodgy relatives. Happily, for Bethancourt at least, his holiday is soon sidetracked by his friend's investigation of a suspicious murder.

    Detective Sergeant Jack Gibbons is sorry to miss Christmas with his family but after weeks recovering from gunshot wounds at his childhood home, Jack is also eager to get back to work and his own flat in London. Although Gibbons does finally get back to Scotland Yard, his time in London is cut short when he is dispatched to York to determine the connection, if any, between a body found in a York shop and a serial killer who has been striking throughout Southern England.

    The murder was likely the work of the Ashdon Killer. But then another murder is discovered at a well-respected York bookshop. As Gibbons and Bethancourt investigate the bookshop killing it seems less and less likely the murder has any connection to Ashdon though the case does raise its own fair share of questions. Bringing the murdered to justice might not catch the Ashdon Killer, but it is still a murder and one both Gibbons and Bethancourt would like very much to see solved in A Spider on the Stairs (2010) by Cassandra Chan.

    A Spider on the Stairs is Chan's fourth book featuring Gibbons and Bethancourt (preceeded, in publication order, by The Young Widow, Village Affairs and Trick of the Mind) and possibly the best so far.*

    Chan manages to keep the plot fresh and original without departing completely from the aspects that regular readers already find so appealing. Of particular interest is the emphasis on Jack and Phillip's friendship--a theme often lacking in other traditional mysteries. A Spider on the Stairs presents readers with the perfect blend of murder, intrigue, humor, and plain old good characters in a thoroughly enjoyable and well-developed story.

    *Now might be a good time to mention that, insofar as a traditional mystery with no romance whatsoever can have teams, I am Team Gibbons. My mother is Team Bethancourt. I loved this book. She did not. We suspect this had to do with the fact that Gibbons featured more prominently and, in my view, is more awesome. Anyway, draw your own conclusions.

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  • Posted June 27, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A superb Yuletide whodunit

    Amateur sleuth Phillip Betancourt knows being the family black sheep makes spending Christmas in Yorkshire at his parent's home as gloomy as the torrent of rain outside. Adding to his family's torrential interrogation of him is questions about his personal life as he no longer is seeing Marla Tate. When cheerful Scotland Yard Detective Sergeant Jack Gibbons calls about a murder in nearby York, Phillip sees an opportunity to escape the torture by joining his friend on the investigation.

    The corpse of Deborah Seldon, found in Accessorize in Davygate Shop, might be the work of notorious serial killer Ashdon. When Jack concludes the victim was killed most likely by Ashdon, he notifies the Yard's serial killer Detective Superintendent Brumby; though the case has anomalies. Soon afterward, the proprietor of Mittlesdon's bookshop finds the body of his former employee Jody Farraday inside on Christmas Day. Gibbons and Betancourt investigate only to find too many people had access to the store.

    The latest Betancourt-Gibbons collaborative investigation (see Village Affairs, Young Widow and Trick of the Mind) is a superb Yuletide whodunit. The story line is character driven more so by the seemingly hedonistic Betancourt though his buddy the cop holds his own as each is euphoric with having the case. Ironically, a contemporary mystery, fans of the classic British "historical" social class mystery like Dorothy L. Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey and Carola Dunn's Lady Daisy Dalrymple Fletcher tales will want to read Cassandra Chan's fun tale.

    Harriet Klausner

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    Posted December 7, 2013

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    Posted May 16, 2011

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    Posted September 16, 2010

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