Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver
|Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver|
|Category: Crime (Historical)|
|Reviewer: Lesley Mason|
|Summary: Delightful Christiesque 1930s mystery story. The lovely (and rich) Amory Ames is torn between her playboy husband and former fiancé when the latter asks her to be part of a holiday party on the Devon coast - with the aim of talking his sister out of making the same mistake she has. Murder naturally follows...|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 342||Date: October 2014|
|Publisher: Allison and Busby|
|External links: Author's website|
It probably helps to be a fan of Agatha Christie. It probably helps to absolutely adore the sheer selfish indulgence and style of the 1930s. It probably helps to just accept the rich as being completely divorced from real life. It definitely helps if you're happy to take your crime as a puzzle, rather than as heart-rending, gut-wrenching rendition of reality.
I tick all of those boxes. So Murder at the Brightwell was everything I expected it to be.
From the stylised poster-print cover (I don't often credit the artwork, but sometimes it is just SO right!) into the all-important first line It is an impossibly great trial to be married to a man one loves and hates in equal proportions, through the improbability of everything that happens from there on out, to the very last line 'Let's make the most of it' And so we did … the book is nothing less than a guilty pleasure.
One feels that one should possibly be above such frivolity. One isn't. One loves it! Life cannot all be serious and doom and gloom… and even books which have at their heart murder and suicide and scandal can be light and mildly intriguing and – sorry but I keep coming back to that word – simply a pleasure to read.
The person married to a man she loves and hates in equal proportions is Amory Ames. She's wealthy in her own right, so it's not like she married for his money. No, she married him for his charm, and maybe his looks, certainly for the danger and excitement of him. Such people tend to be inconsistent though, and tend not to worry what others think of them. In her case, her husband, Milo, (yes the names DO have to be so suitably ridiculous for the whole thing to work) has a tendency to take his charms and his danger off to the south of France, leaving her behind.
One has to wonder why she puts up with it. Even for a woman. Even in those days.
Amory is starting to think the same way herself, when who should float into the morning room but Gilmore Trent. Gil had been her fiancé when she met Milo, and was just oh so decent about the whole thing when she gave him over and married her rogue. Decent enough to stay out of her way ever since, but now he's back and asking for help.
On the flimsiest of notions (and maybe because she wants to slap Milo in the face) Amory agrees to go down to the coast with Gil. A group are meeting up for the kind of holiday that probably only ever happened in Agatha Christie novels where a group of people in a hotel actually become "a group rather than a random assortment of couples and individuals. At least Weaver concocts a rationale for them being together rather than just throwing them into an unexplained conglomerate. It's a tenuous rationale, but then that might be partly the point.
Gil's sister is about to marry someone he really doesn't like. He wants Amory to talk her out of it. Seems a bit of an extreme way of going about it – and unlikely to succeed to boot – but clearly, with novels of this kind there is a rule: just go with it. It's not intended to be realistic. The whole is as sanitised and stylised as the cover artwork. Again, that's partly the point.
It's all about the puzzle. What are the relationships between these people and (once the first body is discovered) who is the murderer, and why.
Naturally Amory will launch into sleuthing – and she will not be alone. The errant Milo will wander back onto the stage to help – but his very presence raises questions of its own.
The Brightwell has all the classic ingredients: the white walled hotel, gorgeously dressed clientele who drink champagne and dance til the early hours and wander moonlit terraces, a steep climb down to a secluded cove, gossip and scandal, timid little mouses (trust me, the plural in this context isn't mice) and brash bright vixens, dim policemen who might be cleverer than they look (or might not be), mixed up medicaments, guns in the most unlikely places, a well-timed storm, hysterical females and bold intelligent ones, it's girls-own-stuff-for-grown-ups.
Books of this type have to be taken on their merit, but also in their context. The simple fact is that if you don't like this sort of thing… then you won't like the book. But if you do, you will.
I am much irritated these days by modern authors stealing the characters from earlier writing greats. What Weaver proves at the Brightwell is that you don't have to do so; you can channel the muse, adopt and adapt the style and stay true to the original whilst creating characters of your own to inhabit that same milieu.
Derivative? Of course it is.
So what! It's great escapism with enough of a puzzle to tingle the little grey cells, with ne'er a Belgian in sight.
If you enjoyed this then we'd also heartily recommend that you investigate Gladys Mitchell. You could start with Death and the Maiden or Death at the Opera. We also liked Seven Dead by J Jefferson Farjeon.
You can read more book reviews or buy Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.