Originally published in 1995, Death Line is the third installment of the long-running Rafferty and Llewellyn detective series, recently re-released in electronic format. This time, they set about solving the murder of Jasper Moon, a well-known "seer to the stars". With high profile clients, wealthy business partners, and disgruntled employees all under suspicion, it's up to this duo to discover the truth behind this theatrical man's death. Along the way, they'll face their own prejudices and learn the value of an open mind.
Having finished the novel, I am compelled to applaud Evans' ability to keep a girl guessing. Alibis were seemingly airtight, motives flew about in a plausible manner, and minor details came into play in grandiose fashion. The slow reveal of lies and various connections between the characters made me feel as if I were sleuthing alongside the crude, determined Rafferty and his uptight colleague Llewellyn; unlike many a mystery novel, Death Line avoided dashing me about as if I were a mere spectator to their impossible brilliance. The two are understandably human, which ties into the preconceived notions that nearly ruin their investigation.
One of the major topics tackled in this novel is homosexuality, including the perceived need to masquerade as heterosexuals in a social climate unwilling to accept gays. Evans explores the psychological impact of such playacting on the men in question and the women and children most readily involved in their lives. Ever the politically incorrect nonconformist, Rafferty's terminology and suppositions can be somewhat boorish, bordering on offensive, but they highlight the character's ingrained homophobia and the challenges that face him in overcoming it.
The language is very British in terms of the dry wit, the colloquialisms, and the various references to European history. For Americans, it may take a moment or two to adjust, but it's a comfortable read once you get going. Personally, I like the smart tone of voice; my issue is primarily with the first chapter, in which various sentences are so dense with information that it's hard to keep track of the point. Granted, it's probably intended to illustrate Rafferty's train of thought, but it can be a bit of a turn-off (of the rambling variety). This tendency does wane later on, though the questionable use of en dashes does not.
On the whole, Death Line is one of the better mysteries I've read. I plan to look into the rest of the series when I get the chance.
(Review copy provided by the author)