Sunday, June 19, 2022

Crooked in His Ways (Lightner and Law Mystery #2)


Crooked in His Ways is the second Lightner and Law historical mystery by S.M. Goodwin. Released 7th Sept. 2021 by Crooked Lane Books, it's 336 pages and available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

This is a skillfully written and well researched historical mystery set in pre-civil war New York in 1857.  A wealthy businessman who had disappeared a year earlier is found, dismembered and packed in salt in a shipping crate, far away from where he had vanished. The mystery is exceedingly well constructed and impressively engineered. I generally have a good idea by midway through a mystery who did what and to whom (and why) and this one managed to surprise me on several levels.

Despite being the second book in the series, the author is adept at providing the necessary backstory and the mystery is self contained in this book. The real-life period history is skillfully interwoven into the story with enough craft that it's not always clear where the real history shades over into fiction. 

Although it's not at all derivative, this is a series which will undoubtedly appeal to fans of Will Thomas, C. S. Harris, and Andrea Penrose. The writing is superb and the plotting is precise and full of twists (possibly slightly too convoluted? - the jury's out). There were two small issues for me with the read: the cast of secondary characters is massive and I found it difficult to keep them straight, and the author's meticulous representation of Lightner's stammer in the dialogue, which often slightly yanked me out of the story because it was so pervasive. Kudos to the author for being true to the character, however. Neither problem was insurmountable and I found myself hopping over places where I couldn't remember a secondary character.

The unabridged audiobook format has a run time of 11 hours 20 minutes and is read with magnificent facility by Rupert Degas. He manages the narration of the characters flawlessly. The accents are widely divergent; from upper class Victorian minor noble (with stutter), through American, both male and female. It's -rare- to find a narrator who can manage both minor British nobility and born and bred American (New Yorker, no less) without mangling one or the other painfully. I found that listening to the stutter as read by the narrator *much* less intrusive or disruptive than reading the book in print. I would recommend the audiobook for that reason alone, but the narrator's performance itself is a huge bonus. 

Five stars. This is a strong entry in a very good series. The audiobook version is also currently the best narration of 2022 so far in my estimation. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

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