RogerBW's Blog

Mrs Pargeter's Point of Honour, Simon Brett 01 February 2019

1998 mystery; sixth in Brett's Mrs Pargeter series (amateur sleuthing). The late Mr Pargeter was a criminal mastermind, though his wife "knew nothing about that"; now the dying widow of a thief who worked for him wants to restore all her stolen paintings to their rightful owners, and of course Mrs Pargeter agrees to help.

Well, Brett finally did it: here's a book with no murdering in it at all, and barely anything for Mrs Pargeter to detect. Instead it's much more along the lines of a caper story, as she and her late husband's associates plot and execute the anti-crime of smuggling the paintings back to where they should be, while dealing with rival crooks, a mole in their organisation, and two bungling policemen.

Almost everyone here is a comic character of the "look at the silly man" school, and it was during a sequence involving a fake television programme that I finally realised (after 22 books) just what it is that makes me faintly uncomfortable about Brett's writing: he's like that bitchy friend who always has something cruel and amusing to say about people one doesn't like, but whom one always suspects may be just as cruel and amusing about oneself to other people. Yes, sure, aren't television watchers all very stupid, ho ho ho, but do I really believe that Brett wouldn't be just as unpleasant about detective story readers to his mates at the BBC? No, no I don't.

He nodded complacently. 'No problem, Mrs Pargeter. I've videoed all four of my mum's weddings.'

The entire point of the series has been that Mrs Pargeter herself could always pretend that there was no crime going on, that these people with names like "Hedgeclipper" Clinton and "Concrete" Jacket were simply rough diamonds to whom the late Mr Pargeter had been very generous. It's a bit of a balancing act but it works reasonably well. But here, Mrs Pargeter engages in unabashed criminality while keeping up the façade of not knowing what's happening – and at the same time continues to damn all hypocrites.

The plot doesn't really hold together either, with all the criminal opposition ending up fitted up for major crimes that they had nothing to do with; yes, yes, hacking into the police computer, but one can't help feeling that the utter lack of actual evidence might be considered a slight impediment when it came to trial.

It doesn't help that the writing is pedestrian in the extreme, and I found myself finishing Brett's sentences just by thinking of what would be the most obvious cliché and then realising that it was what he'd written – not to mention the repeated phrases like "the full beam of her violet-blue eyes" which, as they did for Homer, simply serve to bulk up the word count. It's pap, and Brett did at least have the grace to realise it and end the series here. (There's no especial conclusion, as each of these books is complete in itself, but certainly there's nothing important left hanging.)

Followed seventeen years later by Mrs Pargeter's Principle, but it's one of my truisms that when a writer returns to a series after a gap of more than a decade it's very rarely any good, and I don't like these enough to find out whether they're an exception.

[Buy this at Amazon] and help support the blog. ["As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases."]

Previous in series: Mrs Pargeter's Plot | Series: Mrs Pargeter

Comments on this post are now closed. If you have particular grounds for adding a late comment, comment on a more recent post quoting the URL of this one.

Tags 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 3d printing action advent of code aeronautics aikakirja anecdote animation anime army astronomy audio audio tech aviation base commerce battletech beer boardgaming book of the week bookmonth chain of command children chris chronicle church of no redeeming virtues cold war comedy computing contemporary cornish smuggler cosmic encounter coup covid-19 crime crystal cthulhu eternal cycling dead of winter doctor who documentary drama driving drone ecchi economics en garde espionage essen 2015 essen 2016 essen 2017 essen 2018 essen 2019 essen 2022 essen 2023 existential risk falklands war fandom fanfic fantasy feminism film firefly first world war flash point flight simulation food garmin drive gazebo genesys geocaching geodata gin gkp gurps gurps 101 gus harpoon historical history horror hugo 2014 hugo 2015 hugo 2016 hugo 2017 hugo 2018 hugo 2019 hugo 2020 hugo 2021 hugo 2022 hugo 2023 hugo 2024 hugo-nebula reread in brief avoid instrumented life javascript julian simpson julie enfield kickstarter kotlin learn to play leaving earth linux liquor lovecraftiana lua mecha men with beards mpd museum music mystery naval noir non-fiction one for the brow opera parody paul temple perl perl weekly challenge photography podcast politics postscript powers prediction privacy project woolsack pyracantha python quantum rail raku ranting raspberry pi reading reading boardgames social real life restaurant reviews romance rpg a day rpgs ruby rust scala science fiction scythe second world war security shipwreck simutrans smartphone south atlantic war squaddies stationery steampunk stuarts suburbia superheroes suspense television the resistance the weekly challenge thirsty meeples thriller tin soldier torg toys trailers travel type 26 type 31 type 45 vietnam war war wargaming weather wives and sweethearts writing about writing x-wing young adult
Special All book reviews, All film reviews
Produced by aikakirja v0.1