Julia Chapman is the pen name of Julia Stagg. She wrote the Fogas Chronicles, a series set in the French Pyrenees, and the first two books of the Dales Detective Agency series, featuring Samson O’Brien and Delilah Metcalfe. The author has lived around the world, teaching English, selling books and doing various other jobs, but now lives in the very Yorkshire Dales in which her current mystery series is set. In setting up her scenes, she gives glimpses of stark hills and lush valleys that wind into each other. Volatile weather tosses constant challenges at whoever manages to eke out a living, and the residents tend to like things the way they’ve always been. Characters who married into the area a generation ago are still considered newcomers, and there are distinctions about the townsfolk that separate them from mere mortals, such as an ability to imbibe extremely strong tea.
When Samson returns to the Dales, his homecoming is marred by mistrust and anger. Nobody can forget his previous bad temper, or that he left his alcoholic old father alone with no help. He doesn’t tell the townspeople the true reason that he left, or why he returned. And Delilah, his landlady, doesn’t know that after paying her for office space, he has no money and no home to return to, so he’s going to have to sneak around her and sleep at the office. Delilah is twenty-nine, already divorced after her husband had an affair, with custody of a giant Weimaraner whose antics are fun, although sometimes gross.
Chapman’s writing is crisp and well-organized, the setting alternatingly gorgeous and small-minded, the characters quirky and distinctive, and the mysteries fun to unravel. It doesn’t matter if you figure it out before the end, because you’ll still have fun watching Delilah muddle her way through family and business challenges while Samson awaits a reckoning of some kind, always checking around corners and worrying when his phone rings. The Dales Detective Series is absolutely charming!