Justice Preserved by William Allan is a type of training wheels mystery novel for readers who are investigating the genre: mystery. It is a collection of twelve short stories possibly best read as a series of short stories with perhaps a week or two separating the experiences. Without such a separation the following chapter beginnings become very annoying: “Detective Frank Johnson was sitting in his favourite comfy chair …” There are a few variations after this but the repetitive nature of this opening to almost every chapter drove me crazy. In Chapter One Johnson was reading, in Chapter Two it was sipping tea, in Chapters Three and Four it was when the phone rang. Only in Chapter Ten was Frank not in his “comfy chair.” Chapter Eleven was the only chapter which began with a character that was not Frank. Although I do not have a clear mental picture of what a “comfy chair” is, should I ever recognize such a chair, I will burn it.
So much for driving the reader mad. Allan proceeds further to insult police forces. It seems Frank is the only competent person on the force as he is called for assistance week after week. We get that from Chapter One. Although it has been almost a year since he solved a case, a woman hires him in Chapter Two to do private detective work. There is no indication Frank had retired. Active police doing private work, even as an unpaid favor, is a criminal offense in police forces where I have worked.
In Chapter Five Frank makes a unilateral decision not to kill a dangerous criminal but to refer the law-breaker to mental health services. Nice, humanitarian, praiseworthy actions, for sure but these are the types of decisions made by teams, not someone recently escaped from a comfy chair. In Chapter Six Frank Johnson lends his services to the Art World. Johnson was able to tell that paintings he was observing were originals. An art connoisseur as a policeman is not a common item. Chapter Seven has Johnson working with a talking parrot.
Chapter Eight is the first place I found where Frank Johnson declared to a suspect that he was a private detective. This means the police are incompetent as they frequently must use Johnson’s talents. Again, not realistic. Police may need the help of others, but it must be paid for. Frank seems to do a lot of work in these stories for free. And if police could pay for outside help they would much more likely use the money to expand force capabilities. The legal liabilities and sanctions for using outside, retired, or former officers are many and serious (felony vs. misdemeanor).
Whether Frank Johnson is an active duty cop or not, he seems to have a propensity for working alone. He may occasionally warn police in advance so that they can supply backup if needed but, again, it doesn’t work that way. Police forces would not back up a private detective and they would not allow an active police officer to go into a dangerous situation alone.
Conclusion: The stories in this novel are truly fiction. Could they cause harm? Only in limited circumstances. When I attended a police academy, we had candidates who were “wannabes,” people who had read stories like this. It takes a long time to unlearn bad habits; to convince “wannabe heroes” that law enforcement officers do not work alone, that Rambo never became a cop, and that after leaving law enforcement the authority of the badge does not follow. The only value to this novel is that it is easy to read. English language learners can learn vocabulary. The stories are surface level; there is no need to read between the lines. Characters are not complex. This is far from Sherlock Holmes.
An interesting advertising blurb on Amazon led me to purchase the novel for USD 0.99. It was not available on Kindle Unlimited. I gave the novel two Amazon stars because the stories gave such an inaccurate depiction of police work and I grew very tired of the beginning sentences of each chapter.