Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Murder... Now and Then: Jill McGown

Victor Holyoak is a wealthy industrialist who got his start in criminal activities in London. When the police began to catch up with him in the early 80s he moved to Holland and aimed at becoming a legitimate businessman. Now he has returned to the UK to take over a firm in Stansfield. When he is murdered following an event to celebrate the change in ownership, DCI Lloyd and DI Judy Hill must find the murderer. The investigation involves his stepdaughter, her husband who is the new General Manager, Holyoak's PR manager who is also rumored to be his lover, and various residents of Stansfield.

One of the characteristics of the Lloyd and Hill series is that the books do not follow a formula; the ongoing relationship of the two protagonists is a constant, but each book has a unique structure. In this case, the story goes back and forth between the past (beginning 15 years earlier) and the present, showing the relationships building and key events leading up to Holyoak's death.

The relationship of Lloyd (whose first name is never specified) and Judy Hill is a large part of this series and is even more prominent in this book. In some books they are working together as partners, in others they are working on the same cases but not as partners. This is the sixth book in the series, and at this point their relationship is serious but they are not living together. Because this plot goes back and forth between the past and present, the author has a chance to fill in some of their backstory in more detail, and the reader can see the progression of their relationship. This makes it sound like that element is primary in the story but there is a good balance and the mystery plot always comes first.

I discovered the Lloyd and Hill mysteries in 2007, and read all 13 books in the series in that year. Thus this was a re-read for me. I remembered nothing about the plot as I was reading it. Although I did guess what was going on by the end, I never did remember who the culprit was.

The books in this series are all very strong in both characterization and plot. Many of the characters involved in the crime as possible suspects are not very pleasant people, but nevertheless McGown fleshes out their characters and the relationships. The plots are structured beautifully. This may sound like a cozyish police procedural but there is a good amount violence in the story, although not dwelled upon. So, not cozy at all.

Jill McGown (1947 - 2007) is one of my favorite authors. She was born in Campbeltown, Argyll, Scotland, but by the age of 10 had moved to a town in Britain, Corby, where she lived the rest of her life. She is best known for the Lloyd and Hill series, but she also wrote five stand-alone mysteries (which I have not sampled).

In my opinion, the series is best read in order, because the Lloyd / Hill relationship evolves over time, but the author has stated (in this post at Mystery*File which includes some excerpts from an interview) that each book is written to stand alone and contains enough backstory to explain the relationships where needed.

I have done previous posts on other books in this series: Plots and Errors and Murder at the Old Vicarage. Murder... Now and Then has been reviewed by Moira at Clothes in Books.
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Publisher:  Fawcett, 1995. Orig. pub. 1993.
Length:     346 pages
Format:     Paperback
Series:      Lloyd and Hill, #6
Setting:     UK
Genre:       Police Procedural
Source:     I purchased my copy.


24 comments:

  1. I like this series, Tracy, and a big part of the reason is the solid police work. I do like the Lloyd/Hill dynamic, too.

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    1. I agree, Margot. One review I read emphasized how well the two protagonists do their work and with no grandstanding.

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  2. I enjoyed one of these books and am looking forward to,reading them all! Very well written.

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    1. Yes, Peggy, she is one of the writers that ticks all the boxes for me: good plotting, good characters, and each book offers something new.

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  3. Haven't read this series yet but do own the first book. --Keishon

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    1. I think you will like the first book when you read it, Keishon. She wasn't planning on making it a series when she wrote that book, but came back to the characters later.

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  4. Sounds like a good series to start this summer!
    ps: link on your sidebar is still 'Ipsofactodotme'
    I've channged to https://nancyelin.wordpress.com/
    #JustSaying :)

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    1. Thanks for reminding me about the link, Nancy. Fixing your link and a few others that are out of date is on my To Do list but I have been so busy at work lately that I don't get much else done.

      I saw your post on 20 books of summer, and need to come back and comment. I am still thinking about whether I will have a list for Summer or not.

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  5. Right you are - read the first, liked it quite a bit (very Christie-like I thought). Shall get more, thanks Tracy.

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    1. Her books are Christie-like, Sergio. Traditional with clues, but adding more contemporary touches too.

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  6. Same here as Sergio - read and enjoyed the first book, but haven't returned to the series. I should do so.

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    1. This author is definitely worth a second try, Rick. Of the 13 books in the series, I liked the first 10 best, but all are worthwhile.

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  7. I read one of your earlier reviews of this author, Tracy, and always meant to pick up the book, but what with one thing and another, I simply forgot. Now I mean business. :) I will begin at the beginning. In stories where the two protagonist establish a relationship over time, I do like to go back the first book. But I will, occasionally, break that rule with no harm done. Ha.

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    1. The beginning is a good place to start, Yvette, although possibly less necessary in this series than some others. I do hope you like this author, I think her books have a lot to offer.

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  8. A new name for me, Tracy, but you've piqued my interest (as usual)

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    1. It always surprises me that Jill McGown is not better known, Mathew. But then I did not discover this series until over 20 years after it started.

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  9. Well as you know I share your love for this series. AS with a very few other authors, I am rationing myself and reading them slowly to make them last. Thanks for the mention!

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    1. I love re-reading these books, Moira. Kind of scares me that I don't remember a thing from my first read, but it works out well. Sophie Hannah did a very nice piece on Murder…Now and Then in Books to Die For. I could go on and on about all the things I love in this series.

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  10. You haven't tempted me to rush out and buy this or anything else by her, though I think I might have one of her books. I think I can leave her books to you to enjoy (again and again)!

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    1. I will enjoy them for you, Col. I actually was trying to think of one in this series that might get gritty enough for you. Probably none of them, but there was one about a serial rapist that had me very uncomfortable. Maybe I will like it better the 2nd time around.

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    2. I just checked my tub spreadsheet - Plots and Errors is the one I have.

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    3. Plots and Errors is a very complex one and very good, set out like a play. And Moira liked it too, which speaks well for it. But I won't hold my breath waiting for you to read it.

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    4. I always say Plots and Errors has the most complex plot of any crime book I have ever read - I don't know if that's a recommendation or not? I loved it - but sometimes I felt she was playing games with the readers, laughing at them...

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    5. Even though I have read Plots and Errors twice now, and fairly recently, all I remember of the plot is that I liked it a lot. Other than Lloyd and Hill, I liked the complexities of the family relationships of the other characters. These are sort of like the Nero Wolfe books for me, I can read them again and again, but in this case I don't know the stories so well.

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