Monday, 24 March 2008

Blood at the Bookies

A welcome arrival on the doormat was Simon Brett’s ninth Fethering Mystery, Blood at the Bookies. Brett is an expert practitioner of the light traditional mystery, often with a liberal helping of humour. He began with the Charles Paris books, featuring an actor with a taste for whisky and amateur detection. These are great fun, with plenty of well-targeted jokes. Later, he created Mrs Pargeter, widow of a career criminal, and now the Fethering books have earned a loyal following.

But he’s done much more even than that. A Shock to the System was a stand-alone novel that was filmed. Dead Romantic was, I thought, even better, possibly the best Brett that I have read. It’s not a very well known book, but it’s very clever and I do recommend it.

And then there are his short stories. I was delighted to include one in a CWA anthology some years back, and he has produced two first rate collections, A Box of Tricks, and Crime Writers and Other Animals. Sometimes I think Brett’s crime-writing talents may actually be seen to best effect in the short form, which perfectly suits the ingenuity of his ideas and his sharp, snappy dialogue and ability to sketch character with economy and precision.

Among his other achievements are work for radio and television, most notably the popular series ‘After Henry’. I can testify that he is a very witty public speaker, and he also manages to find time to act as President of the Detection Club. In short, Simon Brett is a consummate entertainer.

9 comments:

Juliet said...

I've really enjoyed the radio adaptations of the Charles Paris stories, and loved 'After Henry' but have never read any of Brett's books. Do you think Dead Romantic would be a good one to start with or would you point the newcomer at the short stories first?

Martin Edwards said...

I'm an evangelist for the unjustly neglected (at least by publishers) short story, so I'd urge you to give them a try!

Kerrie said...

and he is one of my favourite authors!

Elizabeth Foxwell said...

Simon Brett's "A Note of Note"(Malice Domestic 10) tells a story from the point of view of a 10-pound note. His mystery entirely in verse, "Lines of Enquiry," is amazing and hilarious.

Ed Gorman said...

I've learned a great deal about writing from studying the Charles Paris novels over the past quarter century or more. The early Paris novels in particular manage to sustain a sardonic melancholy that is moving without ever being mawkish.

Martin Edwards said...

Elizabeth, I've never heard of 'A Note of Note'. Sounds fascinating and I shall have to try to find a copy. Thanks for reminding me about his mystery in verse - very clever.

Ed, I agree. Brett is rightly thought of as an 'entertainer', but his range of literary skills is impressive.

Jilly said...

I have read all the Mrs Pargeter stories and all the Fethering mysteries - including Blood at the Bookies. In my opinion this latest one is probably the best in the series. I have yet to read the Charles Paris series but will look out for them now.

Euro Crime said...

And he does the narration for the audio versions of his books!

His performances are a highlight of the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival (along with Mark Billingham's).

Judy said...

Please, will someone tell me the answer to the last puzzle in Simon Brett's Christmas at Puzzel Manor.