For slower paced, traditional mysteries that are very skilfully written, you can't go wrong with Brother Cadfael. When Peters created a crusader turned monk, she gave herself a large canvas on which to paint a variety of clever, interesting crimes.
The Leper of St. Giles takes place largely in and around St. Giles, the hospice for lepers that lies just outside Shrewsbury, but it's largely about the wedding of an 18 year old girl, sold off by her guardians for a large portion of her own inheritance, to a cold, unfeeling 60-something land baron who only bought her lands and is taking her on sufferance. Of course she's fragile and innocent and lovely and of course his squire is around the bend in love with her and incandescent over the injustice of her treatment. And of course the baron ends up murdered.
There's a plot twist in this book; a rather major one, but it's telegraphed early on, so that I knew long before it was revealed. It's a good one, but if Peters hadn't split the difference, the early guess would have ruined the story. As it is, Peters seems to have covered her bets and kept that reveal from being absolutely pivotal to the plot, making the ultimate solution a surprise, and a tragic one at that.
A few of the series characters readers enjoy aren't here in this book, but there are other characters that endear themselves to the reader. There's a bit of humor here and there too, making this a much more enjoyable read than the last, St. Peters' Fair, which was a good story but dragged. I'd be best pleased if we saw Bran and Joscelin again, though I'm not counting on it.
I first read H. F. Saint's novel thirty years ago. I recall the praise it received at the time for how well thought out the novel's exploration of the problems that an invisible person might face. When I read it for myself I was similarly impressed with the challenges Saint identifies (how does someone who's invisible drive a car, or feed themselves, or find regular housing?) and how the book's titular character overcomes them.
For decades, the novel remained a fond memory, one which I remembered mainly for its description of Halloway's challenges with invisibility. Then I came across a paperback copy in a used bookstore, and I decided to reread it to see how it held up.
Reading it again brought back a wave of nostalgia tempered by hindsight. In it, Nick Halloway, a yuppie securities analyst living in 1980s New York, visits a laboratory staging a demonstration of a new technology. When the test is sabotaged by student protestors, the resulting explosion turns Halloway and everything else in the building invisible. As he adjusts to his new condition, Halloway becomes the target of a small team of federal agents determined to exploit his new condition.
From there the novel becomes a cat-and-mouse game between Halloway and David Jenkins, the agent in charge of his team. Halloway has to find ways to elude their methodical attempts to locate and capture him. While this may seem like a trivial matter for someone who is now invisible, Saint emphasizes the problems invisibility creates in terms of doing even the most basic things which people today can address without a second thought. Soon Halloway finds himself cut off from his old life and driven from his apartment, forced to find housing and sustenance wherever he can. These challenges are at the heart of the book, and Saint's consideration of how Halloway overcomes them is one of its great strengths.
Yet what really drives the book is Halloway's conflict with Jenkins. Here Saint envisions an ideal foe for an invisible person: someone who is smart, patient, relentless and with the authority and resources necessary to hunt down someone who is little more than a specter. What makes Jenkins especially interesting as an antagonist is in how in many respects he is as invisible as Halloway, as Jenkins' anonymity and cover identities as an intelligence agent render him nearly as indiscernible to modern society. As a result Halloway finds himself constantly on the defensive, adding suspense to the plot and lending weight to his occasional triumphs over his tenacious opponent.
All of these elements explain why the book has such a fond place in my memory. But then I came upon the sex scenes. I had forgotten about those.
Halloway's battle with loneliness is one of the central themes of Saint's book, as his invisibility and his need to remain hidden isolate him from people even when he is in their midst. At two points in the book, however, Saint has Halloway's desperation drive him to engage in what amounts to sexual assault. Neither scene has aged well, and that the second assault leads to "consensual" sex (to the extent that the woman enjoys the experience with what she thinks is a ghost) doesn't redeem it but makes it worse. It definitely soured my memory of the book, and demonstrates how sometimes the past should stay in the past, even when it comes to a warmly-remembered novel.