Charlie Sparks used to be a big name in TV comedy, but is now reduced to doing token gigs in his local pub. But when he mysteriously drops dead on stage, mysterious stranger Kempston Hardwick investigates. Can he stay one step ahead of the police and catch a clever murderer?
Adam Croft has written three novels, all available via Amazon, two in the “incredibly successful Knight and Culverhouse” series – incredibly successful in the sense that they topped the Kindle chart, at least. I’m guessing that’s a little easier than topping the printed fiction charts, especially if you keep your prices low.
So, was this another bargain freebie?
It’s very hard to be negative about something that was free. I have to make something clear though – this isn’t a novel.
It is mentioned on the Amazon page, to be fair, but this is a novella and, it seemed to me, a very short one at that. That’s one of the things about Kindle, you have difficulty doing a page count, but I read it from start to finish in about 45 minutes. That’s quite a good thing, in this case, as if I’d put it down, I’m not convinced I’d have come back to it.
The book is clearly written in the classic mystery vein – all the clues are there, the suspects are assembled at the end… but I’m sorry, I’ve read all of this before in better books. The method of poisoning is obvious in the extreme, although given the nature of the poison, it does seem rather slow-acting. Oh, and if you change the type of poison – it starts off being tetanus poisoning, but changes to something else late in the book, you might want to point out that they have similar symptoms – otherwise your casual reader might just think that you cheated a bit. And when you reintroduce a character from the beginning of the story for the big reveal when they haven’t played any part of the investigation…
There are a couple of nice touches – I quite liked everyone assuming Hardwick was a policeman and letting him question them because of it, but they are outweighed by the negative, such as the character of Hardwick himself. I never got any sense of why Hardwick sticks his nose in – or even why he thinks there is foul play involved when the police don’t. Croft attempts to make Hardwick a cipher, but I just found him generic and bland. To be honest, it’s all a bit dull.
I could rant a bit more, but I can’t find the inclination to have a go at something that was free – if you want a short read that’s got a vaguely decent puzzle in it, you could do worse. But you could also do a lot better than this – Dana Stabenow’s A Cold Day For Murder, for example.