Amateur dramatics in the Fethering area and the production of Shaw’s The Devil’s Disciple is undergoing a few hiccups. There’s in-fighting amongst the cast and crew, the prompter seems to be having a nervous breakdown, no-one seems to know their lines – but at least the prop for the hanging scene is working. One of the leading actors demonstrates to the whole cast how the velcro noose is perfectly safe. So what made that actor go back and try it again – only to find that someone had replaced the noose with a real one…
The Fethering Mysteries is fast catching up on Brett’s longest running series about the actor Charles Paris – eighteen of those, but this is the fifteenth case for Carole and Jude to get their teeth into. I reviewed the first two – The Body On The Beach and Death On The Downs – ages ago, promising to return as soon as possible to get through the series in order. Oops. But the opportunity to review the latest in the series came my way, and given that I really enjoyed the recent Charles Paris mystery, I thought I’d risk spoiling any major events in our heroines’ lives and skipped ahead twelve books. So how has the series held up, twelve books later?
I’ve been having a little trouble maintaining my concentration with some books recently. I’m certainly Golden-Aged out for now – with a busy work schedule, I don’t want to be exerting myself too much when I’m reading. This is supposed to be a relaxing hobby, after all. Now Simon Brett is exactly what I needed.
I’ve said it before – Simon Brett is a great writer. This is what a “cozy” mystery should be – not gruesome but thoughtful, funny, full of believable, if somewhat extreme, characters and with a surprising denouement. Jude and Carole don’t seem to have evolved much over the years, but that’s fine – Poirot never changed much, did he? As Jude throws herself into the play and Carole is (initially) reluctantly recruited as the new prompter, they inveigle themselves into the am dram lifestyle to catch a murderer. But the police have ruled the death an accident, so they’re on their own…
As with the previous books, this isn’t exactly a play-fair mystery as Brett doesn’t spread any clues around. Basically, it’s a guessing game, but it’s a fun one to play. And while the clues may be thin on the ground, Brett does find a couple of ways to hide what happened. One (although I may have read too much into it) concerns something about the victim’s life that I assumed and focused my sleuthing on, only for it to be a false assumption (I presume) on my part. The other concerns the motive – I won’t say more than that except it’s very well done, despite first impressions. There’s a real emotional wallop to the finale – it’s very well done.
One issue – it’s not a Strangling, it’s a Hanging, but Brett’s already written The Hanging In The Hotel, so I’ll let him off!
So, if you’re in the mood for a gentle but engrossing mystery, then this one comes Highly Recommended.
My copy was provided by the publishers, Severn House, via Netgalley. It will be released at the end of the month.