RogerBW's Blog

The Shooting in the Shop, Simon Brett 26 August 2014

Eleventh in Brett's Fethering Mysteries series (amateur sleuthing). A local bric-a-brac shop is burned down, but the body found inside it was shot first. Carole Seddon and Jude investigate again.

But first there's Christmas to get through, and this section is Carole's in a way we haven't seen since The Hanging in the Hotel (fifth in the series). All too often she's the butt of Brett's jokes as narrator, but this time, admittedly because of the forcible loosening-up she's experienced over the course of the various murders she's encountered and her experiences with Jude, she does manage to function like a decent approximation of a human being, having her son and family over for Christmas lunch and keeping her ex-husband from horning in. (Yes, all right, if you haven't read previous volumes you won't grasp just how much of a step that is for her.)

As for the secondary characters who give this series its legs, there's a superannuated Svengali from the Sixties who's more talked-about than on-stage, an old boy living in a beach hut, and a seriously deluded ageing hippy, among others. The only returning characters are Carole's family, though there's occasional mention of people from earlier books in the series.

The mystery? Well, it's there, I suppose, but it's ten chapters before anything illegal happens, and as usual with this series it's not much of an exercise in deduction. Some clues are laid down with all the subtlety of a T-72, and there was even a moment when I wanted, presumably with the author's connivance, to shout "you are leaping to a conclusion that is not supported by the data". In this particular case, to solve the mystery and pin the blame in the right place would take several leaps well outside the evidence we're given; the last-minute confession is a bit of a cliché, but it emphasises here just how little admissible evidence there is.

Better than the previous volume, but still mind-candy reading rather than any sort of serious mental exercise. Not for serious cerebral mystery fans. While I've read this series from the beginning and would recommend that others do likewise, I think the new reader shouldn't feel lost here.

Followed by Bones Under the Beach Hut.

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