1997 – “Hen’s Teeth” by Manda Scott

When Hen’s Teeth  by Manda Scott was originally published genre fiction had few gay or lesbian characters, especially in leading roles, and certainly not in mainstream publishing. My version of this book is a first edition from The Women’s Press which attempted to publish books by women that spoke to real women’s diverse experiences. Today the situation is different and there are many more genre fiction books widely available which have gay and lesbian main characters but it is the work of Ms Scott and others like Val McDermid that have made the difference.

Kellen Stewart is a therapist who used to be a doctor. She had, in the past, been in a relationship with Bridget who runs a farm with horse riding lessons. The split between them was acrimonious but when Kellen gets a phone call from Bridget’s new partner in the middle of the night she travels to the farm to find her ex-partner dead. Kellen decides to investigate and her curiosity is enhanced when she finds that Bridget’s brother has also died in strange circumstances.

This is a reasonably straightforward crime novel which follows Kellen as she tries to work out what might have happened. Kellen and her old friend Lee team up to pursue the investigation and this involves some not so legal activity. The book is well paced and the narrative is wryly funny. It’s a good read although at times the author doesn’t tell us things such as how Kellen and Lee got their experience or what exactly their problem is with the senior police officer in the area – I did wonder if these details were in a previous novel but this is the author’s debut so I am assuming that it is just her way of telling the story and letting you feel that you have come into a life which is ongoing rather than just invented for the period of the story.

This is not a great crime novel but it is a very good one and I understand that the author has written a couple more although she now writes mainly historical fiction. I enjoyed my time with Kellen and felt that she was a very believable main character. The plot holds up well enough and there are some excellent minor characters. Well worth a read.

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