Illusion of Death: A Belinda Lawrence Mystery. Brian Kavanagh. Fontaine Press. November 2018; pb, 196 pp.; ISBN: 9781925846430.
Yes, Belinda Lawrence is back in business! This indomitable, no-nonsense, sharp observer and investigator is quickly drawn into a case involving film fans from the Australian Centre for the Moving Image. They’re completely involved with viewing and evaluating films from bygone errors, from the 1920s forward, more than contemporary movies, that is those usually only found on reels or tapes and early digital formats. Some of these films apparently are extremely valuable and several characters are searching for one series of films, in particular a negative of specific film, “Soldiers of the Cross.” One member, Max, is found beaten and dead.
The group who gather to watch and discuss all films are possible suspects in the ensuing investigation. Each has a motive and most of them have rather vague or questionable alibis for where they were the night of Max’s death. Complicating Belinda and her friend Bridie’s analysis and investigation, even those under suspicion continue to search for the valuable film and will be followed by a second death. It remains unclear whether Jake’s death was a murder or suicide, with only a needle and cocaine bottle found as evidence.
While the investigations follow and a somewhat solution will be found for everyone’s questions, the dialogue between Belinda, Bridie, and the other members of the film society are fascinating to follow. There are also some interesting conversations in which some of the characters are what this reviewer would call “benignly interested;” that is they love the films and love to talk about them; but when they are asked about the films, they appear to have a blasé attitude that makes the discovery of the murderers or murderer more difficult to deduce. It’s also quite amusing!
The Belinda Lawrence Mystery is crafted more in the style of “who done it” mysteries that turn over every possible clue, introduce some regular and dynamic characters and allow the reader to feel involved right up to the very last page! Some lovely descriptions of homes, gardens and architecture are included that enable the reader to envision in the Australian setting.
Illusion of Death… is a delightful, brief and more than satisfactory read! Nicely presented, Brian Kavanagh - Keep writing!