RogerBW's Blog

The Body on the Beach, Simon Brett 12 August 2016

2000 mystery; first in Brett's Fethering Mysteries series (amateur sleuthing). Carole Seddon, conventional, divorced, and retired from the Home Office, moves to the small seaside town of Fethering (inspired by the real Tarring in West Sussex). But her neighbour Jude turns out to be distressingly bohemian, and she finds a dead body while walking her dog on the beach… but by the time the police turn up, it's gone.

There's one big plot-hole here: she goes home, washes the dog, and doesn't get round to calling the police until two hours later. Why not? It might be shock, but this is never mentioned.

Carole is profoundly (and deliberately) unsympathetic; basically, she despises anyone who doesn't measure up to her old-fashioned standards of How Things Should Be Done, in other words everybody (most certainly including herself, though she wouldn't admit it). She's deeply concerned about the idea that someone might see her going into a pub . That makes her a reasonably effective foil to Jude, but it also makes her not much fun to read about, and she's the primary viewpoint character.

There are drugs, unhappy marriages, and disaffected youth, but this isn't trying to be a "gritty" book and the terminally unhappy can always be left behind. The craftsmanship is solid rather than spectacular, with some characters quirkily stereotyped but others coming effectively to life. The mystery is not perhaps terribly challenging, but it is competently handled. Mostly this book serves to introduce the characters and set up their relationship.

Followed by Death on the Downs.

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