It’s a Mystery: Fearful Symmetry, by Morag Joss

Fearful Symmetry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fearful Symmetry is the second in the Sara Selkirk series by Morag Joss. Before starting on this series, I read Our Picnics in the Sun, which involved quite a bit of psychological tension. The Selkirks are quiet little mysteries, but that’s not to say that they’re overly cozy or lacking in suspense. They draw heavily upon their setting, the unique English city of Bath, which does have an ambiance all its own. In Symmetry, much of the mystery occurs in one of the houses comprising Bath’s famous Circus, where one of the residents, a famous retired opera singer, is attempting to stage an original opera based upon the city’s history. The singer’s adult daughter Adele is autistic, and has the unusual ability of remembering and reproducing symmetrical patterns, be they visual or auditory. The other 7 or 8 members of the company are varied and colorful as well, and their interactions are fun to observe.

Sara Selkirk is unusual in the literary world amateur sleuth-dom. A gifted cellist, she falls into criminal cases by coincidence, much like the Agatha Raisins and Miss Marples do. But although Sara can often discern facts and connections that the police miss, she’s not so good at fashioning a coherent picture from them. This both fascinates and irritates Chief Inspector Andrew Poole, Sara’s cello student and the married man with whom she is developing a passionate love affair.

The mystery opens with the delivery of a letter bomb to a harmless elderly woman who also lives at the crescent. Her stance against animal rights appears to have triggered a revenge killing. But a few days later, a second explosion kills Adele, and while CI Poole doubts that the two deaths are connected, Sara believes otherwise. Music fraud, ego, and unrequited love muddy the waters, and at times, Sara’s obsessions about Andrew obscure the focus on her investigation and his.

The solution of the case is anything but simple, yet all the disparate pieces eventually come together to form the picture that both Sara and Andrew have struggled to construct. And the picture is not pretty. What will become of their romance remains to be seen. The third Selkirk novel, Fruitful Bodies, is on my TBR short list.

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