RogerBW's Blog

Trouble in the Brasses, Charlotte MacLeod 30 March 2019

1989, cosy American detective fiction; fourth of MacLeod's novels (as "Alisa Craig") of Madoc and Janet Rhys. Madoc is summoned by his father, an eminent conductor, on an orchestral tour.

In form this varies slightly from other MacLeods: part of the orchestral party is travelling by air, and the plane makes a forced landing in a remote location. (My first thought was "what about the ELT which should be readily detectable by passing aircraft even if the satellites aren't quite there by 1989?", but it's never mentioned.) So in effect it's an isolated country house mystery, because the murderer isn't going to let a little thing like a severely restricted suspect pool stop them.

It was very unfortunate, though, that I spotted the murderer with absolute certainty on their first appearance, so in effect I was re-reading the book; I was able to observe both the attempted misdirections and the hidden clues to the real culprit. And there really aren't many of the latter; their motivation is entirely concealed until about 90% of the way through the book, and while it's technically valid there's no attempt to explain why this particular person should have found murder a more appealing option than the many others available to them.

In other words it's a bit of a cheat. And because I spotted the solution up front, I was less amused by the usual MacLeod cast of comical characters (in particular the sexpot soprano, tediously drawn); and, in a flaw I thought MacLeod had grown out of by this point, Janet is entirely absent from the book, making it more of an exercise in policing and less personal in spite of the presence of Madoc's parents.

Ah well. Other fans of the series and of MacLeod in general seem to have enjoyed this one, but it fell extremely flat for me. Followed by The Wrong Rite.

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