Title: Murder Among Friends
Author: Janice Foster
Publisher: Joffe Books
My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐
DI Stephanie Warwick is called to the scene of a murder. The murder has been called in by a 45-year-old former teacher turned special constable Jane Bell, out on her very first shift.
The victim turns out to be Mark Ripley, who used to run a group that claimed to teach any man to attract a woman into sleeping with him. His methods, he used to claim, were loosely based on the wildly popular book, The Game, by Neil Strauss.
Warwick finds Jane extremely annoying. She thinks the older woman is too self-assured and resents her for not heeding her authority.
At first Jane is keen on learning more about the case. On another of her shifts, she encounters Ryan, a student who is also attacked on the head, and she wonders if the cases are related. Then she herself is attacked and the case becomes personal. She makes her own enquiries and keeps her findings to herself, knowing that Warwick will not appreciate her snooping.
When Ryan’s friend, Kylie Bright, tells Jane about a man who stalked her at a restaurant, Jane wonders if he has something to do with the case. Then Kylie is murdered, and Warwick gets Jane suspended.
Was the murderer part of Mark’s group or is the killing a random one? And can Warwick or Jane solve the mystery before the killer strikes again?
The book is written in the 3rd person past tense limited point of view of Warwick and Bell in alternate chapters.
It touches upon the subject of misogyny, where some men seem to think that women have no agency, and that it is up to the man to take whatever he wants regardless of what the woman might think. It also indicates an unwillingness to face rejection.
It’s the classic pairing that works so spectacularly in books and films. Experienced person versus the rookie, but together they make a good team.
Unfortunately, Warwick and Bell have no intensity or chemistry of any kind. Neither of them can stand the other for most of the book. So I can’t imagine how book 2 will go, considering this is the first in the series.
Warwick doesn’t endear herself to us. She has an equally clinically sterile working relationship with DS Elias Harper, her subordinate.
Of course, Warwick has her own demons. An abusive ex-boyfriend, Cal, who still taunts her in her dreams and occasionally in waking moments too.
Jane, on the other hand, is a widowed English language tutor, whose loving and supportive circle of friends more than make up for her two kids who remain unavailable to her throughout the book.
The return from the flashback to the present was not done smoothly. There were also some proofing errors. “On the small size,” instead of side. Harper was called Hunter a few times.
There are a lot of architectural bits of information about the city, but they don’t give you the impression of the city as a whole. The narrative was all tell, and no show.
Warwick and Jane seemed to arrive at the same conclusions through different means, and in Jane’s case, it really was serendipitous.
The dialogue was clunky and boring, with characters sharing the same information with different sets of people.
The action didn’t feel urgent at all. In fact, all the pressures that Warwick faced were self-generated. There was no pressure from the top, even after a second murder took place. Her backstory with Cal was a plot that might have been interesting enough to read as the main plot rather than being hurried through as the flashback.
I picked up this book because I found the premise interesting, but the execution left a lot to be desired. The wrap-up was hurried and inconclusive. The book title was most inappropriate, and the picture on the book cover irrelevant.