I'm a librarian who loves anime, manga, and reading a wide variety of genres.
According to my records, I've skipped around in this series. I previously read the fifth and tenth books in the series. With Evans Above, I'm finally getting around to reading the first.
Bowen's Constable Evans series takes place in a small village in Wales called Llanfair. Constable Evan Evans is a relatively new addition to the village, having left his original position in a bigger city. He prefers living a quieter life, even though the village squabbles and attempts to set him up with eligible ladies sometimes get on his nerves. However, just because Llanfair is quieter doesn't mean it's crime-free.
In this book, Evans finds himself dealing with a couple dead hikers. While Evans' boss thinks their deaths are just a tragic coincidence, Evans isn't so sure. Even after he learns that both men were in the Army, however, he still can't quite make things fit. Meanwhile, Evans' superiors are busy with a high-profile case involving child molestation and murder, and one of Llanfair's residents is convinced her neighbor is spying on her and trying to ruin her garden.
I liked that there were a lot of things going on. Evans didn't just have one case to concentrate on and couldn't even be certain which cases were related and which weren't. However, the mystery just wasn't all that interesting to me.
Llanfair itself was nice enough. Everybody knew everybody's business, of course, and the two competing pastors' wives were mildly amusing. There was a bit of Welsh flavor in just about everything, from the names (Evans-the-Milk for the milkman Evans, Evans-the-Law for Constable Evans, Evans-the-Meat for the butcher Evans) to the weather (the Welsh mountains that can quickly turn foggy, cold, and dangerous). I liked the detail about the two pastors, one of which gave his sermon only in English and one of which gave his sermon in both English and Welsh.
This was, overall, an okay read, except for one thing: the potential romance. Evans has two women interested in him, three if you count his landlady's attempts to set him up with Sharon, her granddaughter. It initially appeared as though Evans was most interested in Bronwen, but was maybe too shy to pursue her. However, the actual problem was that Evans was afraid the town would force him to marry Bronwen if he showed a particular interest in her, and he wasn't sure he was ready for that. I had to shake my head, because, as far as I could tell, the two of them had never even officially dated. So, what, he couldn't even date her unless he was okay with being pushed into marrying her?
I wanted him to quit being a coward and ask her out, even if it meant he later had to tell the villagers to get off his back. Instead, he stammered and blushed around Betsy, the much more forward barmaid, which then invited Bronwen's ire. Any time Betsy and Bronwen got catty with each other over Evans, I cringed a little. The villagers tended to see the situation between Betsy, Bronwen, and Evans as a battle between Betsy and Bronwen, but it was really Evans' own indecisiveness and desire to avoid confrontation that was causing problems. He preferred Bronwen for being lovely and “unspoiled” (yes, the idiot actually used that word). but he also enjoyed Betsy's cleavage. Gag.
This is one of those times when it's nice to know how things turn out later in the series. M.C. Beaton's Hamish Macbeth cozy mystery series had a similar relationship situation, and the thing that turned me off there was that Hamish's indecisiveness just went on and on. Evans, I know, eventually has to make some choices. Unfortunately, in this book he's still an indecisive wimp.
This was my first time trying Open Library EPUB files. It was nice enough...except that the scan had lots of problems. I adjusted to some of it fairly well, such as the quotation marks that often displayed as 4 or /, but I was less happy about the chunks of text that were left out at the beginnings of chapters/scene changes. A comparison with Google Books tells me that sometimes more than half a page was left out. I hope missing text isn't common for Open Library e-books.
(By the way, none of this was a factor in my rating. I knew going in that Open Library e-book files aren't perfect.)
(Original review, with read-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)