ANN CLEEVES – Sea Fever. Fawcett Gold Medal, US, paperback original; 1st printing, October, 1991. Macmillan, UK, hardcover, 1993.

   This is the fifth mystery novel in which inveterate birdwatcher George Palmer-Jones has become involved with solving a murder. It shouldn’t be too surprising: even though he’s now actually a retired civil servant, he and his wife Molly have become partners in an “enquiry agency” to keep themselves busy in their declining years.

   George hates the term “private detective,” but there is no escaping it: “enquiry agent” or PI, that’s the kind of work they do. George has birds on his mind most of the time, however, and if it weren’t for Molly to push him, I think his business would be nothing at all, in no time flat.

   They’re hired to trace a wayward son who refuses to come home, or to acknowledge the existence of his worried parents in any way. That he is also an ardent birdwatcher makes the Palmer-Joneses the ideal couple to track him down. They catch up to him momentarily on a sea cruise/birdwatching expedition, but almost as quickly they lose him at the hands of a killer.

   Murder at sea means a limited number of suspects, and this is classical detection at very nearly its most overwrought, with little annoying hints of what is yet to come and a (female) police inspector who finds her own life very nearly exploding out of control.

   Don’t get me wrong, though. While this may not be the equivalent of John Dickson Carr in plot complexity, it is a pleasant voyage through waters charted several times or more. Every time I take the trip, I enjoy it just about as much as the time before, and that’s the kind of book this is.

— This review first appeared in Deadly Pleasures, Vol. 1, No. 4, Winter 1993 .

      The Palmer-Jones series —

1. A Bird In The Hand (1986)

2. Come Death and High Water (1987)
3. Murder In Paradise (1988)
4. A Prey To Murder (1989)

5. Sea Fever (1991)
6. Another Man’s Poison (1992)
7. The Mill On The Shore (1994)
8. High Island Blues (1996)