I first came across Simon Brett via the Fethering Mysteries – the first two, The Body On The Beach and Death On The Downs garnered positive reviews early in this blog’s life, but for some reason, I never returned, despite having the next two books in the series. Not sure why, but possibly because in each book, the murderer became, in my eyes, a bit obvious a bit too early. Then I switched to the first Charles Paris book, which I didn’t particularly enjoy. At the suggestion of the author Nev Fountain, who cites Brett as one of his inspirations, I tried A Nice Class of Corpse, the first Mrs Pargeter book, and it was this book that really caught my attention. As such, here we are with the second in the series.
We find Mrs Pargeter, having left the murder-ridden hotel from the previous book, buying a house in Smithy’s Loam, an apparently quiet road with six houses, all of which are primarily occupied by housewives. But her efforts to trace the previous owner of the house meet with little success. The forwarding address is fake and Teresa Cotton seems to have vanished off the face of the earth…
Brett’s strength in writing characters that feel like real people, while still maintaining a light touch, is on full display here. The set-up seems unpromising – five housewives, one of them is probably a murderer, which one – but I found this tale a real page-turner. Without any major events to hang the plot on, we follow Mrs Pargeter’s investigations, aided by her late husband’s “business” associates and I found, slightly to my surprise, I was completely gripped and my suspicions were bouncing around from suspect to suspect.
One interesting choice Brett makes here is that, despite being fairly clued, Mrs Pargeter doesn’t work out who the murderer is until the killer falls into her trap, although she is kind enough to point out the things that she should have spotted!
The one niggle is rather unfortunate – towards the end of the book, Brett tries an Agatha Christie-style trick which did rather stick out like a sore thumb, pointing a flashing neon sign at the murderer. But even with that, I’d defy anyone to put the whole story together.
So, very glad that ‘Nother Chance November brought me back to Mrs P. You never know, I might make it back to Fethering before the end of the month as well.