More Deaths Than One by Jean Rowden

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More Deaths Than One by Jean Rowden

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Category: Crime
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Melony Sanders
Reviewed by Melony Sanders
Summary: Although I can't see it at the top of a best-seller list, this is an entertaining, light-hearted read set in the 1950s
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 224 Date: December 2009
Publisher: Robert Hale Ltd
ISBN: 978-0709089308

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Constable Thomas 'Thorny' Deepbriar has a broken leg after his involvement in a case and so is taken by his wife, Mary, to recuperate in the seaside town where he worked as a policeman during the war. He expects to be bored - the most interesting thing on the horizon is a case of missing gnomes. Then he bumps into an old colleague - someone who left the force in a haze of suspicion. Shortly afterwards, a body is found on the beach. Even stranger is that the dead man is someone that Thorny and his colleague thought had died during the war. It seems that things are not as they seem. Can Thorny work out what is going on, even with a broken leg?

I had never heard of Jean Rowden before reading this book, although she has written two other books in the Thorny Deepbriar series. I didn't have particularly high expectations (especially as the main character is called Thorny Deepbriar!), although I was attracted by the idea that the book was set in the 1950s. However, I was pleasantly surprised. The book, although not without its faults, is a really easy read and I raced through it in just a few hours.

Thorny is not a particularly memorable character, although he is very likeable. A Constable for years, only recently promoted to CID, he has plodded along in his job quite happily, only slightly surprised at his lack of promotion. During the course of this book, it becomes clear that he should have been promoted much earlier, but he has a blot on his record that shouldn't have been there. Married to Mary, they are about to have a child. All this makes him a very sympathetic character, one that most definitely deserved to come out of the story smelling of roses.

The book has been likened to 'Heartbeat', probably because it is set in a rural area and the time period is vaguely on a par, give or take a few years. I think this is a good comparison - the story covers a few threads including Thorny's personal life, minor cases like the missing gnomes and a more serious case of cover-up and murder. As often happens with more light-hearted crime fiction, the dead man is really evil and 'deserved' to die. It is safe to say that the characters are either good or evil - there really isn't a half-way house available, although some characters aren't what they initially appear to be.

There is no way that the book is going to win any prizes for its plot, but then again, I had low expectations and I didn't expect it to be anything special. For what it is, it is very entertaining. If I have to criticise the story, it is that there are a number of rather clumsy plot manoeuvres that could have been better thought out. Thorny's ability to be in the right place at the right time, despite his broken leg, is uncanny and not particularly believable. However, this is so commonplace in any kind of crime fiction that it is hard to be overly critical.

The writing style is good. It flows well and, as befits this genre, is simple and straightforward. Again, the author isn't going to win any literary prizes for her writing, but that really isn't necessary with this type of book. I liked the pacing of the story, with plenty of cliffhangers at the end of chapters. The author seems to know what it was best to cut the story off - it didn't feel either too long or too rushed. And the ending, although a little unwieldy, has a few red herrings to throw the reader off from the truth, making it more interesting than it otherwise would have been.

I have read much better written and plotted works of crime fiction than this, which is probably why the author isn't better known. Nevertheless, it was a really entertaining read, so I have few real complaints. I will certainly be looking out for other books in the series. Provided that you know not to take this book too seriously, then it is definitely worth a read and ideal for holiday reading. Recommended.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If you enjoy this book, then you will also enjoy Agatha Raisin: There Goes The Bride by M C Beaton and Blood at the Bookies by Simon Brett.

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