After the end of the events of The Herring Seller’s Apprentice, literary agent Elsie Thirkettle is determined to attract her client Ethelred Tressider’s attention. Stopping his credit cards seems to do the trick and soon they are reunited in a second-rate hotel in the Loire valley. But before their tangled past can be straightened out, they’ll need to contend with the other guest at the hotel.
After the news of the discovery and disappearance of two priceless stamps, the hotel is holding a stamp collectors’ fair. What a coincidence. But before long, two of the stamp collectors wind up dead, Ethelred is behaving suspiciously and Elsie has acquired the sleuthing bug, determined to catch the killer. Provided she doesn’t eat the evidence first…
OK, first of all, despite the title, this isn’t a massacre a la Ten Little Ni… um, And Then There Were None. There is a very good reason for the title that I won’t divulge which is rather clever, but it’s basically there to imply the book being an homage to Christie. It’s all there, the amateur sleuth, the gathering of the suspects… but everything (and I do mean everything) is slightly askew and masterfully so.
I loved The Herring Seller’s Apprentice (book 1 of the series) and I loved this book too. It’s genuinely funny – again, like last time, the author makes use of two narrators, sometimes giving their point of view of the same event, which is always fun, but this time Elsie gets the lion’s share of the page time. This is probably a good thing, as this is really her tale, like the first book was Ethelred’s. In fact, Ethelred’s role is the one minor disappointment here, as there aren’t any surprises here really. Although that might be because L C Tyler is being careful not to say too much about the events of the first book, but can’t ignore them totally, so this bit is sort of tip-toed around.
But the rest of the book is a cracker. I twigged the killer because I’d seen the trick before on a TV murder mystery gameshow from the eighties of all places (I must do a post on that one day – still bitter about it), but that doesn’t detract from two magnificent final chapters. One, as the suspects are gathered, had me laughing my head off. And the final chapter… there was one little thing about the first book’s ending that I thought was weird – it didn’t fit with the rest of the book. Well, in an utterly insanely genius meta-twist, it is revealed that there is a very good reason for this which now totally redeems that bit for me. Makes it completely worth it.
Needless to say, this is Highly Recommended. A great laugh and a clever mystery.