RogerBW's Blog

Keeping Bad Company, Ann Granger 26 May 2017

1997 mystery; second of Granger's novels of Fran Varady, would-be actress and amateur sleuth. Fran's waiting at a station and feels sorry for a homeless man, so gives him a cup of coffee. Soon she's hearing his life story… and all about the young woman he saw being kidnapped a few days ago.

The police know this alcoholic troublemaker and don't take Fran's report seriously. But soon enough there's more trouble brewing, and Fran's in the middle of it.

This book learns from the rural misstep of Asking for Trouble and stays in London for the whole story, a recognisably Marylebone, Maida Vale, southern St John's Wood sort of area with bits of canal and park mixed into the urban landscape of corner-shops, cafés, pubs and churches. It also takes an odd approach by leading the reader to the kidnappers almost at once… but they're clearly not the masterminds of this or any enterprise, so who's giving their orders?

The answers aren't at all obvious, and I'd say that one at least is essentially without clues, though one can assemble the rest; the real point of this book is Fran's investigative journey, as she puts together what information she does have and tracks down people who can tell he more. Even the minor characters here feel as though they probably go off and do something else when they're not being clue-giver or obstruction to Fran, rather than just being put back in the box until next time.

It's never going to count as anyone's Great Literature, but I was pleasantly surprised and would recommend the book. (You could start here, but if you're seeking out a series from twenty years ago you might as well begin with the first volume.)

Followed by Running Scared.

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