Christmas in England this year is dismal. The foul weather in Yorkshire does little to help Phillip Bethancourt’s mood as he faces the prospect of poor weather and poor company in the form of his stodgy relatives. Happily, for Bethancourt at least, his holiday is soon sidetracked by his friend’s investigation of a suspicious murder.
Detective Sergeant Jack Gibbons is sorry to miss Christmas with his family but after weeks recovering from gunshot wounds at his childhood home, Jack is also eager to get back to work and his own flat in London. Although Gibbons does finally get back to Scotland Yard, his time in London is cut short when he is dispatched to York to determine the connection, if any, between a body found in a York shop and a serial killer who has been striking throughout Southern England.
The murder was likely the work of the Ashdon Killer. But then another murder is discovered at a well-respected York bookshop. As Gibbons and Bethancourt investigate the bookshop killing it seems less and less likely the murder has any connection to Ashdon though the case does raise its own fair share of questions. Bringing the murdered to justice might not catch the Ashdon Killer, but it is still a murder and one both Gibbons and Bethancourt would like very much to see solved in A Spider on the Stairs (2010) by Cassandra Chan.
A Spider on the Stairs is Chan’s fourth book featuring Gibbons and Bethancourt (preceeded, in publication order, by The Young Widow, Village Affairs and Trick of the Mind) and possibly the best so far.*
Chan manages to keep the plot fresh and original without departing completely from the aspects that regular readers already find so appealing. Of particular interest is the emphasis on Jack and Phillip’s friendship–a theme often lacking in other traditional mysteries. A Spider on the Stairs presents readers with the perfect blend of murder, intrigue, humor, and plain old good characters in a thoroughly enjoyable and well-developed story.
*Now might be a good time to mention that, insofar as a traditional mystery with no romance whatsoever can have teams, I am Team Gibbons. My mother is Team Bethancourt. I loved this book. She did not. We suspect this had to do with the fact that Gibbons featured more prominently and, in my view, is more awesome. Anyway, draw your own conclusions.