Some years back, I had discovered Sally Wright’s mysteries, with her university archivist Ben Reese finding himself in the middle all sorts of murder of mayhem. What I liked (and still like) about the Ben Reese stories was that they’re intelligently written stories that respect their readers. I had read two of her mysteries when they published in the 1990s, and then the bookstore I found them at closed, and I couldn’t find them at other stores. I lost touch.
I was in Big Sleep Books in St. Louis recently. A small shop in what we St. Louisans call the Central West End, Big Sleep is devoted to one genre of books – mysteries, broadly defined to include suspense and a few related areas. I wandered alphabetically about the store, and then found myself looking at the Ws. And there was Sally Wright. The store had the two mysteries I had previously read -- Pride and Predator and Publish and Perish -- and one additional one – Pursuit and Persuasion (yes, the titles sound like Jane Austen; they also sound like Dorothy Sayers). I bought all three.
Set in the early 1960s, Pursuit and Persuasion finds Ben Reese in Scotland and briefly in England, helping a former student and assistant find out what happened to the woman who left the student a large estate in Scotland – and a letter indicating that she was likely murdered. Reese has two mysteries to solve – what caused the deceased woman to make the young woman her heir to the estate, and who, if anyone, killed the deceased.
The first thing a reader notices about Pursuit and Persuasion and all of Wright’s mysteries is how well written they are. The next thing is how many characters are involved in the story, and the list of characters at the beginning of the story is immensely helpful, as is the map of the estate. (I love mysteries with maps like this – like the old S.S. Van Dine mysteries from the 1920s and 1930s).
This time, Reese finds himself running up against a mania – a mania known only to collectors whose desire to possess sometimes lead to murder. And Wright introduces a love interest, or actually, two potential love interests, for Reese.
Pursuit and Persuasion is a great read and great fun to rediscover. Best of all – there are three more in the series I haven’t read.