In a former life Jean Harrod was a British diplomat who served all over the world. One hopes that she gave the lie to Sir Henry Wotton’s famous assertion that a diplomat was “an honest gentleman sent to lie abroad for the good of his country.” Now she has retired from that demanding role, and is free to give full reign to her vivid imagination.
She has settled in Yorkshire, and in addition to writing plays, she has embarked on a series of crime thrillers featuring British career diplomat Jess Turner. The second of these is Deadly Deceit, and opens with Turner being sent to the seemingly exotic British Overseas Territory of the Turks and Caicos Islands, TCI for short.
She is on a troubleshooting mission, as the Governor has been involved in a mysterious near-fatal car accident, and someone with the proverbial ‘safe pair of hands’ is required to step into the breach.
Crime fiction has a much used trope – that of ‘The Odd Couple’. Nothing to do with Neil Simon’s immortal characters, of course, but think of Holmes and Watson, Wolfe and Goodwin, Dalziel and Pascoe, Morse and Lewis. They tolerate, irritate, admire and, occasionally, infuriate each other, but the device allows writers to have great fun with the law of opposites. Readers were introduced to Jess Turner’s ‘other half’ in the first book in the series, Deadly Diplomacy. He is Queensland cop DI Tom Sangster. As you might expect, in order to be a foil for the urbane and sleek Turner, he has to be a bit of a rough diamond. Sangster is no fool, however, as his crime clear-up rate testifies.
Given the fact that Turner and Sangster live worlds apart, Jean Harrod will have to continue coming up with convincing reasons for them to meet up. In this case, it is TCI’s proximity to the stricken island republic of Haiti. Boatloads of Haitian migrants are arriving on TCI, and the patience and compassion of the locals has been wearing pretty thin. Sangster’s homeland has its own problems with ‘illegals’ of course, and he has been attending a conference in Miami – a short flight from TCI – with US Immigration officials.
Turner and Sangster uncover a nasty racket in people smuggling, which involves not just shady villains down at the waterfront, but some very eminent people. Although there are a couple of grisly killings, and a very convincing description of a tropical hurricane, I would class this novel as a romantic thriller. It’s none the worse for that, however, and it makes a refreshing change to have central characters who are neither near-alcoholics, black-humoured nor self destructive. I have not had the pleasure of meeting the author, but I suspect that there is a little something autobiographical about Jess Turner. Deadly Deceit is out now. Buy now on Amazon.