An unexpected discovery

Death on the Downs by Simon Brett
I have something in common with Carole Sneddon the protagonist of Death on the Downs: I’ve just made an unexpected find. Thankfully my discovery of Simon Brett was decidedly more pleasurable than Carole’s discovery of a complete human skeleton rammed into two old fertiliser sacks and stashed in a dilapidated barn high on the South Downs. Quite how I could have failed previously to discover a crime writer whose list of published works (not all crime) are now numbered in the eighties is a mystery in itself.

Death on the Downs is the second book in the Fethering Mysteries series. The books feature the redoubtable Carole, a retired civil servant with a healthy respect for rules and regulations but an unsettling talent for finding herself involved in murder enquiries. In the long established tradition of odd couple detectives her confederate in crime-busting is her friend and next door neighbour Jude, a woman of decidedly less conventional tastes more at home with the regulation of chakras than observing social niceties.

Jude’s exploitation of her contacts in the world of alternative therapies reveal a web of unseemly secrets in the Sussex village of Weldisham. While Carole’s persistent questioning of the unsettlingly sympathetic Sergeant Bayliss coupled with her renewal of old contacts in the Home Office suggest the solution to the mystery of the body in the barn may lie in the distinctly more exotic location of Kuala Lumpur.

Well plotted and with pleasingly drawn (though not always comfortable) characters the denouement of Death on the Downs left me rooting for Brett’s Burberry clad heroine in a way that even authors of suspense laden thrillers would be proud to achieve. Peppered with lightly spiced insights into middle England but light on blood drenched torsos Brett’s writing is a satisfying lesson in how to deliver a classic British mystery for the 21st century.

So now I’ve finally found him Simon Brett’s other mysteries will be joining my ‘To Read’ list: ideal companions for a fireside read on a snowy winter’s evening.

I’m currently reading Kate Atkinson’s ‘One Good Turn’. If you want to find out whether Whitbread prize winning author Atkinson’s ventures into the world of crime make it onto my ‘To Read’ list pop by my blog again some time soon. Follow me on Twitter and I’ll let you know when I’ve reviewed her book.