RogerBW's Blog

Guns in the Gallery, Simon Brett 28 June 2015

2011; thirteenth in Brett's Fethering Mysteries series (amateur sleuthing). Jude and Carole go to a private viewing by a consciously controversial artist at a local gallery, but the evening ends in violent death. The police reckon it's suicide, but…

Something of a return to form after the disappointment of Bones under the Beach Hut, though not quite as good as the early entries in the series. There are some changes from the standard pattern: in particular, the head of the police investigation shows some sign of taking Jude seriously when she reckons the death might be murder (at least until Jude has to admit to her lack of solid evidence). Not seriously enough to have found out how many murders these two have been involved in before, mind you. There's a significant inconsistency with the previous book: not plot-breaking, but it seems odd to bring it up when it was brought up in the opposite direction last time.

As an exercise in deduction it suffers rather from the need to stuff everything with false leads: there's very little pointing to the actual guilty party (or parties), to the extent that the clues become obvious by their absence, and it's a pity to solve the mystery at a plot-analytical rather than a diegetic level. The diegetic solution is rather too full of coincidence for my taste too; it's as though Brett is admitting that, while he's had fun pointing accusations at all the horrible people most of whom aren't guilty, he's got to finish the book now so n ahggre qvq vg.

But at least there are plenty of horrible people to have accusations pointed at them, most particularly said controversial artist, his old school friend the son of the gallery owner, and their respective girlfriends. There are diversions into the philosophy of art, and less welcome excursions along what turn out to be entirely irrelevant trails. I do slightly wonder at how much people are prepared to talk to these two middle-aged ladies: sometimes it seems plausible, but here the suspects have mostly been keeping secrets for a while and have no obvious reason to break down now.

Not the best in the series or a tempting starting point, but a step up from some of the recent entries. Followed by Corpse on the Court.

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