For all intents and purposes, "Judge vs. Nuts" appears to be a mystery. However, I would like to say right up front that--to me--this is not a mystery ... not in the classical sense of having a body (or at least a crime) discovered early on and the whodunit unfolding in energetic, rapid-fire fashion throughout, with many false clues being pursued and the inevitability of the miscreant's capture or destruction at the very end.
So, I would not call "Judge vs. Nuts" a mystery. But, I would just as quickly want to say Una Tiers novel is much the better for not following the more classic formula.
As I let my senses be seduced by the lusciousness of her prose and the near flawless timing of her wit, as I watched characters grow out of the words she used to describe them and be transformed into living, breathing entities ... still, I found myself wondering, early on in the novel, "where is the body, where the likely suspects--where the mystery?" And, it bothered me. It bothered me a lot! I learned a great deal about the protagonist, Fiona Gavelle, easily fell in love with her, thanks to the ample skills of her author, but I kept asking myself, "when is she going to find herself in the throes of a mystery.
Could it be, I wondered, that "Judge vs Nuts" tipped the balance of today's formulaic mystery by being too character driven? In other words does the reader experience more of the inner workings of Fiona Gavelle's mind, and the minds of some of the other major players, at the expense of the action that [in a mystery] is needed to drive the reader's attention forward like a piston to the climax?
We live in a restless, between-the-commercials, kind of world--and the mystery exemplifies that kind of peculiar energy. As readers we have internalized that twenty-minute rhythm, and during that span we expect something new to titillate our senses.
It wasn't until I let myself relax and allowed the storyline to wash over me and, at its own pace, perform its sorcery on my mind that I discovered I had been enjoying nothing less than one of the best mainstream novels I've read over the past several years! The fact that about midway through "Judge vs. Nuts" the ingredients of a mystery began to be blended into the already developed storyline was a bonus. In the process of linking Fiona Gavelle to the elements of the unfolding mystery, the author added several more glittering facets to her development as a character.
Be assured though, long after the mystery has been forgotten Fiona Gavelle, the character, will be remembered.