A murder mystery set in 1950s Oxford. The first book in an excellent series.

A Fatal Obsession is the first book in Faith Martin‘s Ryder and Loveday series. It’s set in Oxford in July 1955. Probationary WPC Trudy Loveday is 19, smart and enthusiastic. She’s the only woman in the station and underestimated by her boss and fellow officers, most of whom do not think women should be in the police, (a feeling shared by her parents!) except perhaps to deal with matters relating to women and children. So Trudy gets all the worse jobs, mostly updating records and filing, even though she does her share of beat duty and isn’t afraid to tackle offenders.

The story
When the local coroner, Clement Ryder, needs some police help when he re-opens a case Trudy’s boss, DI Jennings, thinks it’s an ideal way of getting her out of his station so he assigns Trudy to the case. It’s been five years since twenty-one year old Gisela Fleet-Wright died. Her former boyfriend was then found brutally beaten to death the day after a mysterious note threatened his life. Clement thinks the young woman was in fact murdered. Other officers in the force are investigating a series of threats and murders in the local community and he also believes these are linked to what happened to Gisela. There are many twists and turns in this investigation and as the pair dig deeper, past facts and deeds are revealed. It’s a race to solve these crimes before the murderer strikes again.

Clement Ryder is in his fifties and retrained as a coroner after a career as a surgeon. He and Trudy form an unlikely partnership, but after some initial wariness they begin to work well together and appreciate each other’s strengths. However, Clement has a personal problem and although Trudy picks up on this, she doesn’t know what it is or how to help him.

My verdict
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and have since read the others in the series. The setting of the late fifties/early sixties highlights a different police force to the one we have today, not least in its procedures and attitude to woman officers. Except when she travels with Clement in his Rover, Trudy goes around on her bicycle, or on the bus and has to use public phone boxes! 

I found both the main characters interesting and likeable. As they work on other cases together Trudy comes to regard Clement as her friend and mentor, a role Clement finds equally rewarding. Through her work with him she matures, learns a lot and also gains some respect from her colleagues and her boss. I give this book (and the series) 4.5 stars.
Review by: Eve

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