by Connor Whiteley
When Private Eye Bettie English receives a curious invitation that requires utmost discretion from an incredibly wealthy potential client, she is more than intrigued and takes her sister, Phryne along for the ride. The client, Ms. Willow Fisher, is incredibly keen to suppress some compromising material…
Meanwhile, Bettie’s husband, Police Detective Graham Adams, is investigating a suspected drug deal when he is hit on the head by a rock. And, no ordinary rock but an incredibly valuable geological specimen. Could Bettie and Graham’s cases be linked?...
Although set in 2022, A Very Private Woman is full of old-fashioned charm and warmth that works effectively to provide easy, cozy escapism. The story zips along with a jaunty pace and the prose is light, slightly whimsical, and imbued with more than a touch of comic energy.
There are essentially two main strands to the plot; Bettie’s situation with Willow Fisher and Graham’s investigation. Shortly before halfway, both begin to merge together, giving the impression of a relatively straightforward, nicely readable narrative but Whiteley then packs in some surprising twists.
There is, for Bettie, a bewildering turn of events, and then for Graham. During the last quarter of the novel, it appears that everyone is caught up in some form of conspiracy and intrigue with the chapters ending on rousing little cliffhangers.
Overall, in the quirky spirit of the novel, events remain credible and gently puzzling for the reader. There is a clear sense of Whiteley enjoying throwing curveballs at his characters and, consequently the reader.
Bettie is convincing, although at times, feels a touch under-developed. Her sister, Phryne is annoying and despite redeeming herself, the dynamic between her and Bettie is oddly unbalanced and she exasperates possibly a little too much.
Graham is a complex, intense character who packs more into this novella than Bettie. He not only navigates the case at hand but also manages to address the police force’s bigotry and corruption, the inclusion of these issues providing a sense of contemporary commentary and a serious note to proceedings.
A Very Private Woman is a fun, unique, and entertaining novella that is well worth a read for fans of the genre and bodes well for more mysteries with Bettie English. Recommended.