Source: Review copy
Publication: 6th June from Black Thorn Books
Fethering has everything a sleepy coastal town should: a snug English pub, cosy cottages, a little local library – and the occasional murder . . .
Bestselling author Burton St Clair, complete with soaring ego and wandering hands, has come to town to give a talk. But after his corpse is found slumped in his car, he won’t be leaving. Jude is the prime suspect; she was, after all, the last person to see Burton St Clair alive. If she is to prove her innocence, she will have to dust off her detective skills and recruit her prim and proper neighbour (and partner-in-sleuthing) Carole to find the real culprit.
There are times, in between the serial killers, sexual sadists and deviant murderers when I yearn for a gentler kind of crime. One where the murderers are more reflective of a golden age; where the protagonists and the perpetrators know their place and that place is usually in a genteel spot where the middle classes chatter softly among themselves.
On these occasions, I know there are some writing staples that I can turn to. Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers and Ngaio Marsh are but three; Simon Brett is also in that august company. I am a huge fan of Simon Brett’s Charles Paris series, which will forever in my mind be inextricably linked with the casting of the wonderful Bill Nighy as Paris.
So I was very pleased to be offered the chance to read and review a book from a different series; the Fethering Village Mysteries. Liar in the Library is the latest in this series and like the others can easily be read as a stand-alone.
Jude and Carole are both residents of the village of Fethering, West Sussex. They are, in taste, like chalk and cheese and each is more than capable of constantly irritating the other. Yet, like the Ying and Yang symbols that Jude undoubtedly uses, they fit together well and their combined efforts have led to many a mystery being solved.
The visit of best-selling author, Burton St. Clair to Fethering Library to promote his latest book, brings back memories for Jude, who knew him and his first wife Megan, when he was plain old Al Sinclair. After his reading, though most of the, mainly female, audience are rapturous in their applause, it’s clear that there are a few people who take exception to Burton St Clair’s air of knowing it all and playing the arrogant author to the hilt.
So when he is found dead, Jude and Carole have several suspects to consider. What they hadn’t bargained for was Jude being the number one suspect in the eyes of the Police.
With Jude under suspicion, her enquiries are curtailed somewhat, which she thinks is a shame especially as she had made a connection with another, rather more dashing than Carole, potential ally and partner in sleuthing.
The joy of Brett’s whodunit murder mysteries lies in his wit and his parodies of the literary world and associated academic disciplines. From the sci-fi writer to the Professor in Crime Writing Studies, Brett is happy to take merciless pot shots from a position of strength. It is also good, though to have him stand up for Libraries and to bring in some, perhaps more unexpected, contemporary themes such as the missing Polish uncle, homelessness in the area and the uneasy acceptance of the villages of Fethering to the new immigrant communities.
Carole, meanwhile is rather relishing her status as investigator in Chief, so much so that when Jude feels she can rejoin the hunt, Carole’s nose is ever so slightly out of joint. But that’s the way these two rub along and in the end, the pairing is a successful one as the culprit is uncovered.
Verdict: Full of Brett’s trademark wit, with puns galore, Liar in the Library is just the murder mystery for a balmy summer’s day.
Simon Brett, is the author of the Charles Paris, Mrs Pargeter, Fethering and Blotto & Twinks series of crime novels. He is also an accomplished playwright. Simon got his first class honours degree from Dulwich College and Wadham College, Oxford. He went on to work for BBC Radio, which included producing the first episode of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and several other popular shows.
Following that, he moved to BBC Television, including producing End of Part One and The Glums. Since that time, he has written sitcoms in addition to his work as a novelist, including radio and television series such as No Commitments and After Henry. He was awarded an OBE in the 2016 New Year’s Honours for services to literature and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. In 2014 he was presented with The CWA Diamond Dagger, one of the highest accolades in the crime writing world.