Review: Till Sudden Death Do Us Part by Simon R. Green.

Although he hasn’t seen Robert Bergin for 40 years, Ishmael feels duty bound to respond when his old friend calls for help. Robert’s daughter Gillian is about to be married, and he is afraid she’ll fall prey to the ancient family curse. Arriving in rural Yorkshire, Ishmael and his partner Penny learn that the vicar who was to perform the ceremony has been found dead in the church, hanging from his own bell rope. With no clues, no evidence and no known motive, many locals believe the curse is responsible. Or is someone just using it as a smokescreen for murder? With the wedding due to take place the following day, Ishmael has just a few hours to uncover the truth. But his investigations are hampered by sudden flashes of memory: memories of the time before he was human. What is it Ishmael’s former self is trying to tell him … ?

Till Death Do Us Part by Simon R. Green. Book # 7 in the Ishmael Jones Mystery. Kindle edition, 192 pages. Published by Severn House, June 2019. I received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I’m a big fan of this author. I’ve read several of his other series in the past and have enjoyed them greatly. But I’ve had a real love / hate relationship with this particular series so far. I’ve just had a lot of problems with the repetitions, the cliches, the cheesy dialogue, the predictability of the plot, and the contradictions I’ve seen so far with the Ishmael Jones Mysteries. If you don’t believe me, just look at my past reviews for the first 6 books in the series. But… like I said, I’m a big fan of Simon, so I’m all in at this point, for better or worse. Simon R. Green is normally much tighter with his writing, and I keep hoping that he will get this series back on track.

With Till Death Do Us Part we see a refreshing change up in how the book starts. We start off with seeing a little bit of Ishmael’s home life and down time. I really enjoyed that. It’s something we don’t normally get to see. Also at the start of this book is how Ishmael and Penny get involved with the case. Normally it is part of their job, but this time it’s an old friend asking for help. It was cool getting to see Ish. help a friend from his past instead of just doing another job.

Another refreshing change up to the series, is the location setting for this book. Yes, there was still a creepy, dark mansion out in the middle of nowhere, all by itself, but a good portion of the story actually takes place in the small town near by. I was really happy about this! It was so much fun getting to see Ishmael out and about in a wide open area, interacting with citizens of that town. We’ve seen the lonely old mansion setting so many times so far in the series, it was getting a little silly at how similar most of the locations were. This time we had the creeper mansion, but we weren’t just stuck there the whole time. In fact, the time at the mansion was pretty short, or at least it felt like it.

There is one more big, refreshing change up with this entry in the series. Not everyone dies! 😮 Seriously… it was starting to be kind of ridiculous how time after time the only people left alive at the end of the book were just Penny and Ishmael! I mean, keeping everyone alive is basically Ishmael’s primary job on his cases, and he kinda sucks at that! It happens in basically every book, it just became so predictable. Oh gee, we are introduced to 5 characters, I bet they all die. Yep. They do. But in Till Death do Us Part, there was a great balance of who lived and who died. It made the story harder to predict. Plenty of interesting characters and it was nice to see that some of them survived.

While I did enjoy that Ishmael wandered around the town, it was kind of annoying how a lot of the action was just Ishmael and Penny walking back and forth from one crime scene to another. Don’t get me wrong, I DO like that Ish was free range in the town. The PROBLEM is that…. all they did was walk! And look! They didn’t really find any clues or notice anything unusual. They went back and forth to all these different locations… and basically NOTHING happened! REALLY? I mean… I like that Ishmael was stumped, but… there was just no balance. Yes, he does figure out who the killer really is, but he doesn’t figure it out until the very end. There were obvious clues throughout the book, but Ish doesn’t seem to notice them or make any comments on them, until the very end when he says who the killer is, like it only just occurred to him. This just ended up making Ishmael and Penny seem kind of bad at their task. I don’t want to just watch them walk around and not figure anything out. I want to seem them wander around picking up on clues and figuring out who are their top suspects. Also, because of Penny and Ishmael just wandering around not figuring anything out, it made the story just feel super slow going for the whole first half of the book!

It didn’t help any that the killer was super obvious. If I can figure it out when the very first clue is dropped early in the story, it makes it even sadder that Ishmael didn’t pick up on it at all until the very end, after he already invited the killer back the isolated mansion. It’s just like, really? You, Mr. I-don’t-trust-anyone doesn’t find this character suspicious at all through the whole story? HOW?! It made no sense.

See, this is one of the bigger problems with this series. Inconsistencies like this. You can’t tell us how Ishmael is one of the best agents in the Organization, but then have him act so stupid. Or, like, normally he is all over people about wandering off on their own when they are in a group, but this time he makes no comments at all when the main characters start doing just that!! I really want to like this series, but stuff like this makes it very frustrating!

There are a couple of cool things that happened in Till Death Do Us Part, though. First, we get to see more of this inner alien side of Ishmael and we watch him actually get to interact with that side of himself. Getting pieces of Ishmael’s past, and seeing this inner alien side of him, is always very interesting. It’s a fun mystery that is a big story arch through the whole series. The second pretty cool thing in this novel is the surprise twist about the family curse! I gotta say, I was not expecting that!

This was not a terrible book, but it was not the best book in the series either. It just felt kind of slow going and like the main characters never really made any progress in solving things. It just kind of fell in their laps at the end of the story. :/ Most of the time they were just spinning their wheels through this whole case. A little bit of usefulness at the very end doesn’t really make up for the slow plodding through 85% of the plot.

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