RogerBW's Blog

The Bright Silver Star, David Handler 08 May 2019

2003 mystery, third in the Berger and Mitry series. It's tourist season in the small town of Dorset, and a film star couple is among them (she grew up in the area). But soon enough someone is going to plummet to his death.

As with the previous book, The Hot Pink Farmhouse, this starts with a description of the murder (leaving out some key information, obviously) and then flashes back to some hours earlier to let us meet the protagonists. And if you are a nasty suspicious person you will notice something missing from that scene, something that would be entirely unremarkable if it were present, and start looking in the right direction well before you're supposed to.

Which is a shame, because it meant that I was less distracted than I should have been when Handler, a middle-aged white man, attempts to write "black" and does a truly embarrassing job of it. Not to mention that both the black women in this story (both police officers, one of them a main character for the series) are all too often described in terms of their sexiness, while the white women and men (there are no black men here) mostly aren't.

For the third time there's a group of new characters who have always been significant in the town, no really they have, and at least one of whom is going to turn out to be a villain. It feels as though the town's being stamped out afresh with mostly new people for each book. (Perhaps I'm using my game master's head, but I couldn't get away with doing that in an RPG, and I generally hold books to higher standards.)

There is good stuff here too. Quite a few of those characters are well-drawn, particularly the two film stars. The mystery, while it's a bit too similar to the last two in that it's basically driven by lust, is reasonably complex even if you have noticed that clue-by-absence in the introduction.

But for me the series is sinking into the white man's satisfaction with his own privilege: Mitch is always right, even when he's telling the police how to do their jobs, and he gets to go off and be a big hero (again) and is pulled out of it only by the non-white non-man who loves him (again). It irks me, and I think it may be a while before I read the next one.

Followed by The Bright Orange Sunrise.

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