Some of this information can be termed as plot spoilers, so if you’ve never read any of my Jake Talbot Investigates mystery series and would prefer to find out about Jake as the character develops story by story, then turn away now.
At the beginning of Visiting Lilly, Detective Inspector Jake Talbot is forty-three years old. I never describe what he looks like, so it’s up to you to create an identikit profile and use your imagination to fill in the blanks. You can make him as handsome or as ugly as you like. I offer a hint in Saving Anna, where I suggest that Talbot is quite tall.
Is he sexy? Yes, but not in a James Bond kind of way. My editor, Cindy Wyckoff describes him as not flashy, but a solid, pure gold guy. She’s been known to smile and say, “You can send Jake round anytime.”
What we do know for sure is that Talbot transferred to Farnham in Surrey from London after his parents died and his sister, Anna, became mentally ill. Farnham is an idyllic location, situated on the Surrey/Hampshire border, just down the road from Jane Austen country. It’s one of the most expensive places to live in England, with rural house prices increasing by the day as wealthy commuters snatch them up to escape City life. Talbot believed that moving to Farnham would offer a quieter life, but so far he’s discovered that Farnham’s prosperous inhabitants are just as criminally minded as the less well-off residents on his previous patch in London.
Before meeting twenty-seven year old Frankie Hayward, Talbot was failing badly at hiding his emotional pain from colleagues, and mostly shunned new friendships. Everyone claimed he was washed up. Something about Frankie’s persistent, insightful nature, draws Talbot out of his shell. Their relationship is symbiotic, each helping the other cope with the world in different ways. Frankie helps Jake deal with his relationship with Anna, and Jake helps Frankie deal with people he doesn’t know. Although Talbot is highly protective of Frankie, ultimately the bond of trust that grows between them fulfils both of their needs to belong and have something greater than family.
As a detective Talbot’s courageous, but won’t take stupid risks. He doesn’t always play by the rules, yet he never truly breaks them, and sometimes treads a very fine line. Hence Superintendent Bailey is often heard saying to him, “I never have liked your methods,” but then promptly asks what he had in mind. The main thing is that Talbot likes to get a result, whatever case he’s investigating, and working long hours has already cost him one relationship. He’s a grafter, self-disciplined, dislikes being disciplined by others, and never gives up.
One thing about Talbot that irritates his superior, Bailey, is Talbot’s habit of assigning specific ring tones to everyone. Frankie gets the Time Team theme tune, Bailey gets Rumpole of the Bailey and Dr Weissman gets the Doctor Who theme tune. It’s Talbot’s way of categorising people, sometimes dismissive and sometimes humorous.
Rarely having time for his hobbies, Talbot still maintains an avid interest in antiques and genealogy. He’s a collector, perhaps too much of a hoarder, and often on the lookout for something special. Any suspect is going to have their furniture, paintings and nick-nacks scrutinised by his discerning eye, and he’ll quickly assess their personalities by the quality of their furnishings and how they treat their surroundings. Disrespect an antique table and he’ll label you a heathen. Hang a high quality watercolour in full sunlight and he’ll think you’ve got more money than sense. Display a collection of fine porcelain and he’ll think you have good taste: then wonder whether you’ve nicked it.
Amidst his investigations Talbot is always struggling to create time for his personal life, but often shoots himself in the foot and prioritises work. He swears too much and smokes too much. Occasionally he enjoys a social drink, never drinks and drives, and only hits the hard stuff when he’s really, really upset. When Talbot reaches for the whiskey, you know he’s hurting. He has a quirky, somewhat self-critical sense of humour and tends to be very matter of fact when up against vicious criminals. Everyone is under suspicion unless he’s proved them innocent.
Will Talbot ever manage to find the right woman to love, cherish and have sex with? He’s certainly interested in sex, but the women in his life all present with their own complications. During the periods that we see Talbot, he’s always too busy on a case and the timing is off for a relationship, or the women he’s attracted to feel inappropriate because they’re too young, a work colleague, or the victim of crime. Fortunately I know who he’s going to end up with, and when – but will he ever dedicate himself to a little rest, relaxation and romance? I expect he will, until the next investigation gets in the way.