RogerBW's Blog

Say It With Poison, Ann Granger 17 September 2019

1991 mystery; first of Granger's novels of Chief Inspector Markby and non-detective Meredith Mitchell. Mitchell is British Consul in Bratislava, home on leave to support her actor cousin Eve as Eve's daughter Sara gets married. Markby was a friend of Eve's deceased husband, and is giving away the bride. But it's Mitchell who will discover the body of the local potter who may have had something going with Sara…

As mysteries go, this is quite an odd one. In some respects it's extremely slow; there's no body until chapter 5 of 14, and there's lots of talk about old times. It's quite old-fashioned in its attitudes, as Granger tends to be anyway; as part of a fairly detailed dissection of the psychology of the victim, there's a suggestion that Sara shouldn't have been at all surprised that he thought he was in with a chance with her and became annoyed when she got engaged to someone else: after all she had been friendly to him and was voluntarily spending time in his company. Er, well.

One significant misstep to my mind is the prospective husband, a young man who's hailed by everyone as terribly intelligent, but who is insulting to everyone he meets – and pointlessly so. No sooner does he hear that Mitchell's in the diplomatic service than he goes off on a rantlet about helping feckless hippies. Whom does that benefit? It doesn't make him feel better or look good in front of the woman he wants to marry, and it doesn't incline anyone else to do him any favours. I won't deny that there are people like that, but they aren't clever people. (One might also reasonably wonder what he sees in Sara, or she in him.)

One feels too that Markby should have done a better job of saying why he thought Mitchell should stay out of the investigation, a thing he's obviously required by the pro-am mystery formula to say: on the one hand, that her having spoken with a witness could compromise the police case (he tries this but puts it very badly, making it sound as though he thinks she would be tampering with the witness rather than just being accused of it by the defence), and on the other, that someone poking around might quickly become a target for a further covering-up murder. (And something not entirely unlike this does indeed happen.)

But these objections, while significant, don't make much of a dent in my overall enjoyment of the book. Both Mitchell and Markby are interesting people with their own lives and experiences, and as they start to fall for each other (there are 15 books in this series and Granger takes it slowly) they have to work round real differences in worldview, not just spurious misunderstandings.

This is a thoroughly relaxed book, almost entirely lacking in action, but I found that I greatly enjoyed it. The mystery is reasonably obvious with a bit of thought, but its resolution is very much in keeping with the characters that have been established.

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Series: Mitchell and Markby | Next in series: A Season for Murder

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