It’s 1960, and Trudy Loveday, almost 20, is a woman police constable, or WPC, in Oxford. That is, a probationary WPC because she’s still learning on the job. Her bosses and colleagues at the police station don’t like the idea of a woman policeman; they think she should be doing filing work and bringing them tea and coffee. But WPC Loveday is bright; in fact, she’s brighter than almost everyone she works with. And she’s determined to succeed at her chosen career.
She has had the good fortune of working with one of Oxford’s coroners, Clement Ryder, 57, on a case where they solved a murder. Ryder sees Loveday’s potential, and he knows she won’t get the mentoring she needs. So, he takes her under his wing. A former celebrated surgeon in London, Ryder learned he was developing Parkinson’s disease. He quit performing surgeries and get himself a coroner position. Most of the Oxford policemen can’t stand him because he’s smart, relentless, and isn’t afraid of calling them out when they deserve it. They’re all more than happy to let WPC Loveday work with him.
It’s a case of what looks like accidental drowning during an end-of-term celebration by a group of students. The problem, for Ryder, at least, is that, when called to testify at the inquest, all of the students are vague about the dead man being there, and vague in the same way, as if they’ve been coached. Ryder suspects something’s not right, and he leads the coroner’s jury to return an open verdict, meaning he’ll continue to investigate. With the help of WPC Loveday.
And when they start turning over rocks to find out what happened, the coroner and the young WPC will find all manner of sleaze – and a murderer.
A Fatal Mistake is the second of seven Ryder and Loveday mystery novels by Faith Martin, and it’s every bit as good as its predecessor, A Fatal Obsession. It’s a mystery, a bit of social history (when women were first breaking into police work), and one good story.
In addition to the Ryder and Loveday novels, Martin has also published the series she’s best known for – the DI Hilary Greene novels, as well as the Jenny Sterling mysteries. Under the name Joyce Cato, she has published a number of non-series detective stories. Both Cato and Martin are pen names for Jacquie Walton. (Walton as another pen name as well – Maxine Barry, under which she wrote 14 romance novels.) A native of Oxford, she lives in a village in Oxfordshire.
A Fatal Mistake is about rotten personalities, prejudice against women, ruthless ambition, and a coroner trying to disguise his growing physical affliction. And murder, of course.