RogerBW's Blog

Mrs Pargeter's Package, Simon Brett 19 December 2017

1990 mystery; first in Brett's Mrs Pargeter series (amateur sleuthing). Mrs Pargeter keeps another recent widow company on a package holiday to Corfu, but clearly things are amiss even before the murder and the cover-up.

Well, as a mystery it's utterly straightforward: Brett is stingy with the clues, but as soon as a piece of information is learned one can see its significance. There's no particular reasoning needed here. The plot leaves no cliché unturned, and there's a deus ex machina ending that smacks of desperation.

Cliché also abounds in the description of the package tourists, including "the young couple from South Woodham Ferrers in Essex, who had just got their eighteen-month-old Craig off to sleep", "the retired man in the beige safari suit, who had appointed himself the life and soul of the party", and "the Secretary with Short Bleached Hair". Fortunately they're used mostly for incidental colour; it's the locals who actually matter, and they're rather better drawn.

All right, it's no This Rough Magic; the humour here is not from a sense of the ridiculous, but more "look at the horrible people, aren't you glad you're not like them". Generally I've enjoyed either the mystery or the characters in Brett's books; in this one, neither of them really worked. In the end I'd file this one next to Brand's Tour de Force, and that's not a compliment. Followed by Mrs Pargeter's Pound of Flesh.

[Buy this at Amazon] and help support the blog.

See also:
This Rough Magic, Mary Stewart
Tour de Force, Christianna Brand

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