RogerBW's Blog

A Nice Class of Corpse, Simon Brett 19 October 2017

1986 mystery; first in Brett's Mrs Pargeter series (amateur sleuthing). Widowed Mrs Pargeter moves into a seaside hotel in Littlehampton, and causes a stir by being herself; but when one of the guests falls down the stairs in the middle of the night and breaks her neck, she may be the only person who doesn't assume it was an accident. Or at least one of two people.

The setting is made for Brett's usual brand of "ha ha, daft crumbly old people are silly" humour, and he indulges himself; but there's some degree of humanity here as well, with tragedy leavening the comedy and vice versa. It's frankly subtler than I'd expected of him having read some of his other series.

It rapidly becomes clear that Mr Pargeter had an unusual profession, and some of the fun is in not knowing just what it was, though one can make guesses; but Mrs Pargeter has some skills, and some friends, that one wouldn't expect of a harmless old biddy. Which turns out to be handy, because one of the other people in the hotel (not a Home, no no, just an hotel for elderly people who don't want to live on their own) is a murderer.

The actual plot isn't wildly complex, and Mrs Pargeter has little trouble disentangling the red herrings and eliminating most of the suspects, as indeed the reader shouldn't. Characterisation is fairly simplistic. This is clearly meant to have elements of a cosy mystery in the Miss Marple style, but doesn't quite catch the tone; on the other hand it's sufficiently distinct that one can enjoy it as a story in its own right.

It's nothing remarkable, but quite pleasant. I'm told that the series hits its stride with the second book.

Followed by Mrs, Presumed Dead.

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