I enjoyed my first John Buxton Hilton book, The Anathema Stone, and so decided to take advantage of the fact that Bello have reissued the Simon Kenworthy series in ebooks by trying another with a title I found inviting - The Sunset Law. In the earlier book, Kenworthy solves a mystery while on holiday in Derbyshire. This time, guess what? He's on holiday again - having retired from the Yard - although now he ventures futher afield, going with his wife to visit their daughter and her American husband, who happens to be a cop.
Holiday mysteries are a staple of the genre. They have been popular with writers, as well as readers, for a very long time. "The Adventure of the Devil's Foot", for instance, is a mystery in which Conan Doyle took Sherlock off on holiday. Agatha Christie was forever doing it with Poirot, in great books ranging from Peril at End House to Murder on the Orient Express, and even allowed Miss Marple a slightly unlikely trip to the Caribbean. On a less exalted level, I've never written Harry Devlin or Hannah Scarlett books set on holiday, but holidays do feature in some of my non-series short stories, and holidays I've taken have often inspired short stories - examples include "Sunset City" (the Isle of Man) and "The Bookbinder's Apprentice" (Venice) as well as the very recent "A Glimpse of Hell" (Grand Cayman.) I am currently working on another travel story-related project.
So I was favourably disposed towards The Sunset Law from the start. Th e holiday idea gives one a chance to see Kenworthy in an unfamiliar setting - Florida - and the set-up crackles with potential conflict. The son-in-law's behaviour seems rather odd, and events soon take a grim turn as it appears that he may have been breaking the rules. Whose side should Kenworthy be on?
Hilton writes well, and his stories have more depth than many crime novels. I suspect he'd have been an interesting person to get to know - sadly, he died nearly thirty years ago. Unfortunately, the story here failed to hold my interest. The impression I gained towards the end (where the pace picks up nicely, I should add) was that Hilton had enjoyed visiting Florida, but had struggled to work out a suitable mystery to set there. He might have done better to content himself with a short story The Sunset Law is a decent read, but I preferred The Anathema Stone.