Monday, February 4, 2019

Alan Beechey, An Embarrassment of Corpses

Alan Beechey, An Embarrassment of Corpses
Poisoned Pen Press, 1997/2014
© Alan Beechy 2014
ISBN 978-1-61595-4287 (ebook)

This is the first of (so far) three books featuring Oliver Swithin (author of the Railway Mice children’s books, featuring Finsbury the Ferret), Detective Superintendent Tim Mallard (Oliver’s uncle), and Detective Effie Strongith Arm.  The book opens with Oliver discovering the body of his friend Sir Hargreaves Random (commonly called Harry; author of boys adventure books)) in the pool surrounding Nelson’s Column.  It’s just after 6 AM, following the annual Snark Hunt organized by and for the members of their club, and based, of course, on Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark.  It turns out, of course, to be murder, and a number of subsequent murders occur daily.  And they all have signs left suggesting the Zodiac—in reverse order of the calendar, beginning with Pisces (and you have already noticed that Sir Harry died in a pool, a pool with fountains in the shape of dolphins).

Oliver makes the transition from suspect to assistant to his uncle, and as the death count rises, tempers grow shorter.  And the pressure to find the murderer and stop these apparently random murders also grows.  More than that I don’t think I can say about the plot (although there is one point that I find basically unbelievable, which is the murderer’s actual motive).  Oliver, by the way, would like to get closer to Effie, a desire that is complicated by the people he shares a (large) flat with and by Oliver’s one-time involvement with Sir Harry’s niece Lorina.  I will say, though, that I found the denouement a bit contrived.  Overall, I enjoyed this book a lot.

The three main characters are all interesting and I’m looking forward to the other two in the series (This Private Plot and Murdering Ministers; all three are available as ebooks, but not, apparently new in print; they are available from used booksellers). 

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