RogerBW's Blog

Mrs, Presumed Dead, Simon Brett 04 November 2017

1988 mystery; second in Brett's Mrs Pargeter series (amateur sleuthing). Mrs Pargeter moves into one of a small cluster of new houses, but it seems that the previous occupant may have come to a bad end.

This is entirely frothy. Some of Brett's later books (in the Fethering Mysteries series) have had reasonably complex plots; this tries, but rather than giving the reader a puzzle to get his teeth into it just ends up providing a bunch of disconnected incidents, most of which are meaningless, and all of which are open to multiple interpretations. In the first book of the series, it was pretty obvious who must be responsible; in this one, anyone who had certain bits of information could have dunnit, and there's no way of working out who those people are rather than who they might be.

The people are somewhat stereotyped, but reasonably well-observed; they all have their own secrets and the beginnings of character arcs, though most of them reach no resolution. The writing is generally pleasing; Brett is rarely sloppy.

The late Mr Pargeter had left her well provided for in many ways, and each piece of furniture was like a little cassette of memory, which brought back vividly the circumstances of its purchase (or, when that was not the appropriate word, of its arrival in their marital home).

One does however have to wonder why Mrs Pargeter, a vivacious widow in her sixties who casually dresses in mink and hires limousines, and whose address-book is full of current and former criminals who will fall over themselves to do her favours because her husband was such a good blokeā€¦ should choose to move into a nest of yuppies. And why doesn't she seem to have any friends?

Brett's heart is clearly in the right place, and the obvious loony is dismissed as the murderer in a metafictional way:

But Mrs Pargeter didn't like that conclusion. For a start, she had a strong prejudice against murders committed by people who were mad. She had always disliked them in crime fiction and didn't care for them much in real life. Madness was so vague, so woolly. Any motivation and logic could be ascribed to someone who was mad. At the end of a crime book in which a madman dunnit, Mrs Pargeter always felt cheated and annoyed.

Yes, all right, I've written similar things myself (and so of course did Sayers); it's an unfair puzzle. But so I'm afraid is this one, at least to my way of thinking. Still, Brett can describe someone as being "sinisterly ungrammatical", and that's why I forgive him the rest, and will probably continue with the series; they aren't being as waspish as the later Fethering books, or as revelling in the intrinsic humour of laughing at old people as the one Charles Paris I've read. Very light-weight but still enjoyable. Followed by Mrs Pargeter's Package.

[Buy this at Amazon] and help support the blog. ["As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases."]

Previous in series: A Nice Class of Corpse | Series: Mrs Pargeter | Next in series: Mrs Pargeter's Package

Comments on this post are now closed. If you have particular grounds for adding a late comment, comment on a more recent post quoting the URL of this one.

Tags 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 3d printing action advent of code aeronautics aikakirja anecdote animation anime army astronomy audio audio tech aviation base commerce battletech beer boardgaming book of the week bookmonth chain of command children chris chronicle church of no redeeming virtues cold war comedy computing contemporary cornish smuggler cosmic encounter coup covid-19 crime crystal cthulhu eternal cycling dead of winter doctor who documentary drama driving drone ecchi economics en garde espionage essen 2015 essen 2016 essen 2017 essen 2018 essen 2019 essen 2022 essen 2023 existential risk falklands war fandom fanfic fantasy feminism film firefly first world war flash point flight simulation food garmin drive gazebo genesys geocaching geodata gin gkp gurps gurps 101 gus harpoon historical history horror hugo 2014 hugo 2015 hugo 2016 hugo 2017 hugo 2018 hugo 2019 hugo 2020 hugo 2021 hugo 2022 hugo 2023 hugo 2024 hugo-nebula reread in brief avoid instrumented life javascript julian simpson julie enfield kickstarter kotlin learn to play leaving earth linux liquor lovecraftiana lua mecha men with beards mpd museum music mystery naval noir non-fiction one for the brow opera parody paul temple perl perl weekly challenge photography podcast politics postscript powers prediction privacy project woolsack pyracantha python quantum rail raku ranting raspberry pi reading reading boardgames social real life restaurant reviews romance rpg a day rpgs ruby rust scala science fiction scythe second world war security shipwreck simutrans smartphone south atlantic war squaddies stationery steampunk stuarts suburbia superheroes suspense television the resistance the weekly challenge thirsty meeples thriller tin soldier torg toys trailers travel type 26 type 31 type 45 vietnam war war wargaming weather wives and sweethearts writing about writing x-wing young adult
Special All book reviews, All film reviews
Produced by aikakirja v0.1