RogerBW's Blog

The Corpse on the Court, Simon Brett 22 December 2015

2011; fourteenth in Brett's Fethering Mysteries series (amateur sleuthing). Jude's new lover Piers is a tennis fanatic – real tennis – but when she turns up for a lesson one of the other club members is found dead. Heart attack, clearly, but why is everyone acting so cagey? Meanwhile Jude's friend Carole conducts a separate investigation.

Where Bones under the Beach Hut was largely Carole's book, this one is largely Jude's. She's the one with the entrée to the tennis club, and indeed the one with the new lover. I never found Piers entirely convincing as someone who could knock the self-possessed Jude so thoroughly off her feet, but that's just something one has to accept on trust. Generally Jude has seemed by far the better-adjusted of the pair, but here we see her in a much more vulnerable mode: Carole has to remind her repeatedly that Piers must be considered one of the suspects, just as much as the other members of the club.

Indeed, as Jude has been spending time away with her lover, Carole has decided to conduct an investigation on her own – and does so, following up on a femur found in a local lake one hot summer several years ago. It's not the most challenging of trails, and almost everyone Carole meets is remarkably helpful to her; while there's a satisfactory conclusion this is very much the "B" plot. Meanwhile Jude pokes and prods, but finds it heavier going than usual; there was a point near the end, when a name from Jude's investigation turns up by complete coincidence in Carole's, that I felt the GM of this scenario was getting frustrated with the player characters' slow progress and was dropping a heavy-handed hint that they were on the right track and there was a potential witness they hadn't yet bothered to interview.

These two are better off when they're working together, each spotting holes that the other will miss, and this was so much a theme of the book that I was expecting the final chapter to contain an in-character mention of it, but no such luck.

Brett is still lazy at times, particularly in his choice of a perpetrator of domestic violence, and there are various minor holes in the logic that stop the story entirely working (the way the police are kept out, and a witness's total failure to recognise someone he knows quite well).

Shifting viewpoints are something of a problem: ending a scene just as a critical point has been reached is fair enough, but the switches to the other major character's story can be somewhat wrenching, and generally when we return to the original stream it's some time later and finding out whether or how the crucial question was answered means waiting for a flashback – which may not occur until much further on.

It's a fair enough series entry, neither particularly good nor particularly bad; not worth seeking out on its own, as the character moments will make much more sense in the context of Carole's and Jude's development over the years. Followed by Strangling on the Stage.

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Previous in series: Guns in the Gallery | Series: Fethering Mysteries | Next in series: The Strangling on the Stage

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