My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Village Affairs, the second in Cassandra Chan’s Bethancourt-Gibbons series, is the first to show signs of the series seriously getting its feet under it. It’s not quite as strong yet as the third and fourth novels, but the pieces are all in place here, and all of them are starting to work well together.
This book kicks in not terribly long after the events of the first book–and Gibbons, unfortunately, is in sad straits. (More than that I won’t say, so as to avoid spoilers.) But Bethancourt’s girlfriend is doing a photo shoot in a small town in the English Cotswolds, and it just so happens that a murder has taken place there, providing Jack with an excellent opportunity to enlist his friend’s aid. A nice tangled little murder investigation ensues, complete with the obligatory cast of colorful characters. In particular, the vital young vicar and his beautiful wife stand out for me as memorable.
Overall the actual murder investigation–which, at first, doesn’t even necessarily seem like a murder–takes second place to me behind the characters. In particular, Bethancourt’s stormy relationship with Marla holds a lot of interest, as Marla highly disapproves of his participating in murder investigations. Set off against Jack’s depression over the events that have happened between the last book and this one, it makes for great character development fodder for all three characters. You should definitely read the first one before reading this one, though, to pick up on the proper context for Jack’s state throughout the plot.
ETA: Corrected “second and third novels” to be “third and fourth”. Thanks,