RogerBW's Blog

Murder in the Museum, Simon Brett 24 August 2016

2003; fourth in Brett's Fethering Mysteries series (amateur sleuthing). Bracketts, an Elizabethan house, is to be turned into a museum celebrating the life and work of the local poet Esmond Chadleigh, its most famous resident. Then a skull is dug up in the garden.

That's not so bad in itself, as after some wild speculation it turns out not to be recent, but it's clearly going to cause Talk, and meetings of the board of trustees for the museum project become an administrative battleground. A visiting revisionist American academic, who's expected to write a hatchet-job about Chadleigh, doesn't help matters. And then someone gets fatally shot.

Unfortunately there's rather a lot of administrative battleground, with board meeting after board meeting, endless talk about sponsors and fund-raising, casual disregard of the rules of order, and personality clashes between horrible people whom we have no reason to care about.

Most of the characters are pretty one-dimensional, though a convicted murderer on day-release has a bit more depth. There's a spirited attempt to keep multiple suspects in play, and a twist forces a late re-evaluation of motives and opportunities. While the mystery of the skull is very easy to solve in principle, the later shooting is rather trickier, and the detection aspects of this story are generally pretty good.

But Carole, after some significant and positive changes, does something really stupid for which I find it hard to forgive her, and Jude is absorbed in a former lover and doesn't bother to tell Carole anything. This eventually gives the two principals a bit of long-term character development, but it's arguable whether it was worth the faff.

Followed by The Hanging in the Hotel.

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