Death on the Downs - Simon Brett

~~Moved from GR~~


Death on the Downs (Fethering Mystery #2)

by Simon Brett


There are some mystery stories that you treat like a puzzle: you guess and deduct and try to figure out who the criminal and motive and method are. And when you get to the end, you either feel incredibly smug or quite foolish, because it all seems obvious in retrospect. And then there are others where it just doesn't matter, because the mystery is just the framing for the story. 

Simon Brett's books fall into the latter case. All of the Fethering books that I have read follow precisely the same pattern: the two main characters poke around, they don't end up figuring out who the villain is, one stupidly steps into the villain's hands and is captured and subjected to monologuing, and the other comes to the rescue. But you know what? I don't care, because the books are just too much fun.

My first encounter with Simon Brett was via the BBC radio show, Foul Play, in which Simon Brett writes an incredibly ridiculous spoof play of a murder mystery and hosts a show in which he invites two murder mystery writers to interactively "investigate". My favorite moment was when PD James got in a bit of a battle with him over procedure. Brett's humour and general genre-savviness carry through to his Fethering books, just as they do to his Charles Paris series.

The books star two daring over-fifty dames: Carole Seddon, a practical, introverted, rather pinched spinster, and her vivacious, impulsive, empathetic, bohemian, and constantly entertaining friend Jude. The two live outside the small town of Fethering, a village that is constantly fighting off the invasion of middle-class suburbanites. The town itself is full of color, and the background characters are entertaining and cynically drawn, rather in the fashion of Jane Austen. Carole and Jude have a knack for stumbling into bodies, and quite fancy themselves as investigators. In actuality, they are rather rotten at it, as they have never yet actually managed to finger the murderer, but again, I really don't care. The mysteries tend to be quite improbable. (For example, one of them--don't worry, not this one--involves a revenge murder after someone insults a butcher's technique.) What wins me over is the entertaining small-town atmosphere, the zany characters, and Simon Brett's humour.

So bring on the predictable and/or ridiculous plots. I don't care. I'll snap them up.