The Celtic Dagger (A Fitzjohn Mystery)

Read:   April 2014

Author:  Jill Paterson

Published:  2013

Genre:  Mystery

Pages:  221

Selected By:  Lady Esbe

Lady Esbe’s Score:  Scoring It Was OK Book

“University professor Alex Wearing is found murdered in his study by the Post Graduate Coordinator, Vera Trenbath, a nosy interfering busybody.  Assigned to the case is Detective Chief Inspector Alistair Fitzjohn.  Fitzjohn is a detective from the old guard, whose methodical, painstaking methods are viewed by some as archaic.  His relentless pursuit for the killer zeros in on Alex’s brother, James, as a key suspect in his investigation.

“Compelled to clear himself of suspicion, James starts his own investigation and finds himself immersed in a web of intrigue, ultimately uncovering long hidden secrets about his brother’s life that could easily be the very reasons he was murdered. 

“This gripping tale of murder and suspense winds its way through the university’s hallowed halls to emerge into the beautiful, yet unpredictable, Blue Mountain region where more challenges and obstacles await James in his quest to clear himself of suspicion and uncover the truth about his brother.”  – from the Goodreads synopsis.

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Lady Esbe’s Review

I was looking forward to a good murder mystery and with The Celtic Dagger (A Fitzjohn Mystery), I was expecting some keen investigating on the part of Chief Inspector Alistair Fitzjohn to give me a great story with dueling perspectives between himself and Dr. James Wearing, his chief suspect turned investigator.  Unfortunately, I was sorely disappointed.  When you hold something out to be a “Fitzjohn Mystery” you would expect that character to play a major role.  The way the book reads, all leads and clues came to him by way of the investigation started and ultimately completed by Dr. James Wearing.  I don’t see the purpose of involving Fitzjohn other than he’s an incidental character who’s name is in the title and the author said, “Oh yeah, I guess I better add a paragraph or two about the inspector considering the book is titled after him”.  I suspect this is to be a series, and I won’t be reading past this.  It was better to have left off the “A Fitzjohn Mystery,” because the only mystery to me is, how is that college professor, who’s basically an archeologist, digs up more information pertinent to the investigation than the inspector.  Dr. Wearing should have been asking for Fitzjohn’s salary because he did all the heavy lifting in this book.

The setting was fantastic.  How often do we get a mystery based in Australia?  Not often (by my experience).  While the story takes place predominantly in Sydney, we venture to the Blue Mountains, Brisbane, Melbourne, etc.  However, my question is this: what is the jurisdictional propriety in Australia?  A Sydney based officer is traveling to all these different sites after Dr. Wearing comes in and does the pre-work, excuse me, all the work for Fitzjohn to just come in and verify the data collected.  I find that hard to believe unless Fitzjohn’s the equivalent of, say, a federal agent in the U.S., which we are not privy to in this book.

While the book moved quickly and I’m appreciative of that, the writer’s style is very simplistic.  Some of the sentence structure made me question whether this written for a Young Adult Audience.  (I agree with Elle Tea: just because it is supposed to be a YA book, doesn’t mean it should be dumbed down.  Look at Of Mice and Men or any number of books that were on our reading lists in middle and high school).  It was so, shall we say, curt that I was saying, “um, why did that even need to be said.”  There is also the issue with introducing a character then having the main character repeat the person’s full name every time they mention the person.  For instance, we are introduced to a colleague of Dr. Wearing, and he is constantly referred to as “Tristan Harrow” versus just Tristan unless he’s being spoken to, it began to grate on my nerves.  I as a reader, thought, “well how formal are we in Australia or are you doing this because you, as the author, forgot you introduced us to this character chapters ago and kept reintroducing them time and time again.”  If there were multiple characters with the same first name, the distinction would have been appreciated.  However, in this case, it was redundant and annoying.

Being a connoisseur of mysteries, I tend to anticipate the author’s moves before the author arrives at the solution.  After all, we want the mystery, but we also want to know if we can solve the mystery with the clues the author has laid at our feet.  It is unfortunate that I was able to figure out within the first ten chapters who the actual culprit was despite the author’s effort to bring it back around to another character.  The diversion was ineffectual and only helped tie up things that weren’t even in question with regards to this particular reading other than to give the diversion more reasons to despise him.  Everyone will not be a Robert Ludlum, David Baldacci, or James Patterson; however, I do expect you to take your time and build your story in a credible and intricate manner to keep the reader engaged beyond thinking, “I knew that was going to happen.”  The story was very formulaic, down to the unnecessary damsel in distress.

Alas, another disappointing self-publishing effort.  I am glad Amazon affords authors the opportunity to present their work to the world when publishing houses could possibly nix a good story that just needs the guidance of a credible editor.  However, I implore writers to have a second or third set of eyes (people who are literate and can find most errors quickly) to help you with your editing.  Also, don’t be in a rush to get a story out there, great things take time.  Take the time to refine it and make the reader chomp at the bit to want to read more.

Lady Esbe read the Kindle version of this book.

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