RogerBW's Blog

Mixing with Murder, Ann Granger 25 November 2018

2005 thriller/mystery; sixth of Granger's novels of Fran Varady, would-be thespian and amateur sleuth. Fran didn't want to get involved again with Mickey Allerton, a strip club owner whom she's run into before, but he wants her to track down a dancer who's run off. And he's keeping her dog to make sure she does it.

Finding Lisa at her parents' place in Oxford is easy enough; but that's when things start to go wrong. Lisa is angry, scared, and unwilling even to listen to Fran, but she's too confrontational to be interesting; and, alas, the repeated cycles of Fran trying to talk to her, and Lisa putting her off with the same objections, become tedious to the reader (as, clearly, they also are to Fran, but she keeps coming in with the same approaches rather than saying anything new). Even after Fran finds a body and gets involved with the police investigation, this cycle continues. I felt that Lisa needed to be a bit more sympathetic, or at least a bit less stupid; as things are, it's just tiresome to read about her.

Naturally Fran gets involved with a member of the Oxford police, DS Haley Pereira (in order to humanise her contact with the investigation); while I can see why the story needed to be set out of London, so that Allerton would have a limited range of resources to deploy, it's a shame that we couldn't have had the recurring character of DI Janice Morgan, or at least someone else who isn't, as Pereira is, extremely like Morgan except for a couple of surface details.

There's plenty of Oxford geography, though no need to follow along on a map. Still, Fran's native habitat is London, and she fits better there.

This feels more like a late-nineties book (when the series started) than an mid-two-thousands one; Granger was born in the 1930s, and while she clearly feels the need to mention The Internet the way she does it (with an antisocial, nocturnal, unhygienic loner who happens to be Fran's upstairs neighbour) would have been embarrassingly dated even when this came out in 2005. And mobile phones are treated as a scarce resource. More seriously, one character is unable to walk, and his being "stuck in a wheelchair" is treated as a life-destroying affliction.

As for the plot itself, it's clear that something is going on beyond what Fran's been told, but Granger omits one key piece of information in a very obvious way which tries to avoid giving the clue too blatantly but leaves the reader working on meta-plot data rather than the same set of information that Fran's using.

For all that, Granger's writing of Fran's internal voice remains interesting enough that I forgive her the problems. The ending is generally downbeat, but in a way that works. Followed by Rattling the Bones.

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Previous in series: Watching Out | Series: Fran Varady | Next in series: Rattling the Bones

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