RogerBW's Blog

The Wrong Rite, Charlotte MacLeod 12 October 2019

1992 cosy American detective fiction; fifth and last of MacLeod's novels (as "Alisa Craig") of Madoc and Janet Rhys. They've gone to Wales to help celebrate Madoc's great-uncle's 90th birthday, but soon enough there's a dead body to be dealt with.

There's a huge cast (with a crib at the front), but alas there's also a great deal of mundanity in the half of the book that precedes the murder, including a number of tediously unpleasant people; I quickly found myself not really caring who was who, or what they'd said or done, because there were just too many of them and none of them really managed to be interesting. From the murder onwards, about a third of what's left of the book is taken up in flailing around; then, suddenly at the 66% mark, everything starts being solved, with entirely unforeshadowed reasons for people to have been doing things, because everything must suddenly now be wrapped up neatly, all the good people sorted out and if possible paired off, all the bad caught and/or made miserable.

And some comma splices, though not as many as in the last book, and some sentences that are just wrong.

"I rather suspect Arthur's death may have occurred under less than dubious circumstances, and everyone keeps hushing it up for Lisa's and Tib's sakes."

There's also an unusually gruesome means of murder which seems out of keeping with MacLeod's comic style, and I can only think that she didn't fully consider the implications of it.

There are rather fewer comma splices than in The Resurrection Man, but several got through and I am now sensitised to them in MacLeod's writing.

Possibly if you've never been to Wales you may find the atmosphere and rude mechanicals amusing, but had I had the editing of this I'd have excised characters and subplots until I had a neat contained story, then given the characters who were left actual characterisation rather than comic traits.

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Previous in series: Trouble in the Brasses | Series: Madoc and Janet Rhys

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