Detective Bex Wynter Files, Book 3 • Elleby Harper • ★★★ ½
Courting Death is the third novel about an NYPD detective who transfers to London to get away from the pain of her husband's death. Detective Bex Wynter is a strong, complex character, and she's one of the best things about this book.
The setup seems destined for an open-and-shut case: a teenager has confessed to killing his parents. But lawyer Isla Standing and DCI Bex Wynter begin to suspect that all is not as it seems.
The mystery is a good one. The reveals—not just of the killer, but of all the important clues—are well-placed, and quite satisfying. With solid twists, the investigation is compelling. It's easy to root for the heroes—and the victims.
Harper has a good read on most of his characters, too. Although Isla's husband, Quinn—coincidentally, a detective working for Bex—is mostly a jackass, he's allowed some room to breathe in the second half of the book. Bex, too, is saved from being what could easily be a two-dimensional typical brooding detective by a few well-placed scenes that show the depths of her well-hidden despair.
I haven't read the first two books in the series, and while I'm intrigued enough to want to know the details of what's alluded to, I never felt lost or confused with the characters or the action. Many series don't allow their sequels to work on their own, but the Courting Death is great to read as a standalone.
However, the book gets docked some points because many of Bex's actions feel false, more in the interest in serving the plot than serving the character herself. Isla, too, is often in danger of being a little too perfect both in her tolerance of her intolerant husband and in the working relationship she has with Bex.
The ending is mostly satisfying, as well, but three characters have their arcs wrapped up much too neatly—and with a turn of events that strained my credulity too much. Without giving too much away, I'd just say that not only do I not believe that Bex would ever suggest the life-changing course of action these characters take, but the characters would never agree to it as quickly as they do.
Still, there's a lot to like about Courting Death—and readers seem to agree, considering the high number of five-star reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads. This is a series—and a character—that I'd be interested in reading more about.
—Paul Austin Ardoin
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