RogerBW's Blog

Death Under the Dryer, Simon Brett 10 September 2016

2007 mystery; eighth in Brett's Fethering Mysteries series (amateur sleuthing). Carole always has her hair cut at Connie's Clip Joint, "same shape, but shorter". This time, Kyra, one of the juniors, hasn't turned up, and she turns out to have been left dead in the back room, strangled with the cord of a hair-dryer.

Suspects include Kyra's boyfriend Nathan Locke, who's conveniently vanished, and whose parents seem rather odd; and Connie's ex-husband Martin, now manager of a much more successful chain of hairdressers, and known for putting it about a bit. Where the last book was "dysfunctional marriages", though, this one is more "dysfunctional families", and a pair of side trips.

First there's a long excursion into the Lockes' family game, a sort of combination board- and role-playing game clearly invented by someone who doesn't know a great deal about either (but has read a little about Gondal), but who can bring to descriptions of fantasy the same contempt he brings to everything else slightly alien to his experience. (Yes, all right, there is a lot of rubbish in fantasy, and games tend to skew to the simplistic side, but Brett goes out of his way to make this sound utterly clichéd and tedious.)

A trip into the world of nth-generation Czech immigrants is rather more effective, though of course since this is Brett we know that they won't be the killers (any more than any gay man ever would be). Much stranger is the man with the controlling wife, who wants to make it look to her as if he's having an affair and covering it up very well, or maybe he doesn't… it's a peculiar sort of folie à deux that's superbly observed.

The setting is vivid as ever, and the writing generally works well if rather slowly at first, but the mystery somehow fails to be compelling. Followed by Blood at the Bookies.

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