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mistakenly in mallorca

22 february 2019

I was led to Roderic Jeffries' Mistakenly in Mallorca by the work of Jeffrey Ashford – because Jeffries and Ashford are one and the same. Mistakenly in Mallorca is the first novel in a long-running detective series that Jeffries has been writing since the mid-1970s. It is newly available on Kindle for 99 cents, cheap.

You get fun reading value for your 99 cents. Mistakenly in Mallorca is something of an English cozy, set as the title would lead you to guess on the Spanish Mediterranean island of Mallorca – parts of which, at least in 1974, were practically stage settings for the English detective cozy. But Jeffries (like his alter ego Ashford) is capable of turning on a dime, or perhaps a 5p coin, from dull there-will-always-be-a-Mallorca stuff to unsettling noir.

The novel opens in England proper. Or very unproper. Protagonist John Tatham suffers the loss of his fiancée at the hands of some gangsters, and becomes disillusioned with his native land. All his life, all Tatham has every wanted to do is run a farm, but that takes money. He goes out to Mallorca to visit his great aunt Elvina, who holds out the hope that she can give him a large inheritance and stake him to that farmstead … but then she dies before she receives that large inheritance. What's Tatham to do?

Things get very complicated, and an inspector named Alvarez (who will apparently be the investigator in many a novel to come) has to sort them out. Alvarez is a kind of Mallorcan Columbo. He works alone mostly, because he seems to have been posted to the wrong police station long before and has never had the energy to get back on the org chart. Alvarez is single, and in fact lost his own partner in circumstances reminiscent of Tatham's, which is partly why he lacks energy. Alvarez drives a beat-up car and is fond of turning up at his prime suspect's home with "just one more question." And of course, he is fabulously brilliant.

But not as scrupulous as Columbo. Oh, Alvarez is incorruptible – he's not personally interested enough in anything for anybody to be able to bribe him. But he doesn't see things the same way the Spanish court system or conventional morality might see them.

I don't think that very vague description of the action in Mistakenly in Mallorca will spoil anybody's reading, and if it intrigues anyone enough to get the book and read it, so much the better. Jeffries is evidently alive, in his 90s, in Mallorca, and presumably gets a few cents from each Kindle sale. He writes with energy, humor, and clarity, and he should keep profiting from it.

Jeffries, Roderic. Mistakenly in Mallorca. 1974. Endeavour Media, 2018.