It’s getting to be that time of year! <cue sing-songy, sugary-sweet voice> The holidays are upon us, with their relentlessly cheerful music, with their overwhelming scents of evergreen and fresh baking, with their enormous weight of soon-to-be-disappointed expectation!
Don’t get me wrong – I love the holidays. But I feel that steeling myself with a little world-weary, careworn cynicism is a good way to prepare for the insanity ahead. So when I was at the Maple Library and saw Simon Brett’s The Shooting in the Shop, with its decorative fairy lights, Christmas crackers, wreath and handgun on the cover, I knew it would find a place in my holiday-prep reading! When I opened the jacket and the first two sentences read “Christmas can be murder… Carole Seddon hates Christmas…” – well, the deal was sealed!
The Shooting in the Shopis the eleventh (or so) novel in the Fethering Mysteries series by Simon Brett. The Fethering Mysteries feature Carole Seddon – veteran of the home office and champion of all things traditional – and her next-door neighbour Jude – a healer and New Age guru of sorts. Together they ferret out facts and pursue truth whenever murder comes to their little village. Which it seems to do with frightening regularity (as it tends to do in novels of this sort!).
This time around, a high-end boutique has burned to the ground, and while arson is always suspected in such cases, no one was expecting to find the body of the shop owner’s step-daughter in the ruins. And when she was found, no one expected that she had been shot! The family seems to have a vested interest in getting the investigation wrapped up as soon as possible – hoping for a finding of suicide. But Carole and Jude are unsatisfied with the party line coming from everyone close to the situation.
Brett’s novel (and I will assume the entire series) is a very refreshing modern take on the classic English drawing room murder. Carole and Jude could well be Miss Marple and Poirot wandering about the countryside, digging up clues, following up leads, asking impertinent questions everywhere they go. Occasionally, one might wonder what in heaven’s name the police are up to – but Carole and Jude are so good at what they do, eventually one relaxes into the knowledge that whatever the police are doing, they obviously aren’t very good at it, so why don’t these lovely ladies just get on with it?
And then, to top it all off, Carole – despite hating Christmas – ends up having a rather nice one for all that! Definitely put this one in your holiday reads pile!