Jess Castle and the Eyeballs of Death by M B Vincent
|Jess Castle and the Eyeballs of Death by M B Vincent|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Sophie Diamond|
|Summary: Quirky, absurd and charming. A funny tale about some not-so funny small town murders.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 432||Date: October 2018|
|Publisher: Simon and Schuster|
Dr Jess Castle, the self proclaimed failure of the prestigious Castle family has returned home to the sleepy, idyllic chocolate box town of Castle Kidbury. Rather than being delighted, her family are suspicious, especially her father, the judge. Luckily for Jess, she doesn't have to try too hard to dodge her family's suspicions as a series of gruesome local murders are taking place and that's all anyone is talking about. Jess accidentally finds herself in the thick of the investigation, and to her delight finds that she can actually be useful. But with the small population dwindling and the sense of danger moving ever closer to home, has Jess made a grave mistake getting involved?
This is the most cheerful book about murder I've ever read. If the writings of Agatha Christie and Peter Kay ever had a baby, I like to think it would read something like this. It's really difficult to write about gruesome murder and have the level of humour here so I take my hat off to the authors. You never take this book too seriously. At points I was even laughing out loud, my favourite bit being the absolutely marvellous Chinese Whispers about the murders.
What's really wonderful is how well a small town family drama and a locked room detective trope together. Everybody is a suspect but you also get a good look at the wonderfully crafted characters. The people described are vivid with a lot of wacky characteristics, it's very easy to think of them as locals down the pub. And although everyone is a suspect, it's hard to really suspect anyone. If you figure it out, you're several Sherlock steps ahead of me. It might start out a whodunnit but finishes more a 'what is this place'. And while it has a lot of detective story motifs, it's parodying the genre as much as it's using it. I love that the protagonist is called Jess Castle, it's the most underwhelming detective name at the side of Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot. I think that it's this and the title in general set the pitch brilliantly before you even start reading, you know what you embark on is going to be somewhat madcap.
The other very Christie element going on here is the class divide in the village between the very wealthy (borderline aristocracy) and the ordinary folk. Another classic element of detective fiction but not in this book. In this book the social divide is all about what people were born to achieve and what they were not. Jess was born to achieve and in her opinion, and she believes, her family's opinion, she has not lived up to that. The great source of tension in the book comes not from the murders happening all around but from Jess and her dad.
While the plot is not the tightest or most logical structure you'll ever read, this is a story full of charm. In fact it's a tale of two stories which you can't separate from one another, it's a family drama with a lot of killing on the side. It's darkly funny and just funny, funny, but it's emotional notes in all the right places. It's a character study in small town mentality and fitting in, and a detective story asking if you really know the people around you. For one book it packs a lot in.
Would highly recommend this book, it's absolutely charming and I don't think you'll find one out there quite like it!
For further reading, it's hard to suggest anything quite like this, but if you like the idea of a quirky look at crime, try Pushing Up Daisies (Agatha Raisin) by M C Beaton
You can read more book reviews or buy Jess Castle and the Eyeballs of Death by M B Vincent at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Jess Castle and the Eyeballs of Death by M B Vincent at Amazon.com.
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