Bloody Ham by Brian Kavanagh

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Bloody Ham by Brian Kavanagh

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Melony Sanders
Reviewed by Melony Sanders
Summary: Belinda and Hazel become involved with a film crew on location and are intrigued by the tensions within the crew and the actors and actresses. Then the leading actress dies on set - can Belinda and Hazel work out what happened? Like the title, this book is hammy, but entertaining.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 180 Date: September 2007
Publisher: BeWrite Books
ISBN: 978-1905202539

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When Hazel lends some of her antique silverware to be used as props in a Restoration drama being filmed in Surrey, she and her friend Belinda are thrilled to be allowed on set. From the outset, it is clear that there are tensions within the senior management and there are any number of affairs going on. Things come to a head during filming when the lead actress collapses and dies, having been poisoned. This is followed by another death. There are any number of suspects, including Belinda herself. Can Belinda and Hazel unravel the tangles and find the murderer?

It was obvious to me as soon as I saw the title of this book that it was going to be something of a farce, and that is indeed what it is. Highlighted fabulously (darling) against the set of a film, this is not a book to be taken seriously, so if you like your crime fiction to be gritty and violent, this book is not going to be for you. Reading it in the spirit in which it is intended though, this is a fun book that won't win any literary prizes, but whiled away a few hours for me.

I'll start with the pluses. I really liked the two main characters. Hazel is a woman in her fifties who has a penchant for men much younger than herself, although she rarely takes such relationships seriously. Belinda is an Australian in her thirties, and is in a serious relationship, although she is not entirely sure whether she wants it to end in marriage. I found both of them very entertaining, both within themselves and as a partnership - the way they spark off each other is great. This is apparently the third book in a series featuring Belinda and Hazel, but I didn't feel that I needed to have read the previous books to understand the dynamics between the two, although I am persuaded to read more now.

The story was an enjoyable enough romp, although it isn't one that will particularly stick in my mind for long. At times, I found it confusing - there are a number of characters who like to steal the limelight and sometimes I found myself forgetting who was who, but a quick flick back through the pages soon solved that problem. Luckily it is not a long book. I did think the ending could have been better though. It all happens in a bit of a rush and not all the strands were tied up as well as they could have been.

On the negative side, the writing seems quite uneven. When reading the prologue, I was totally thrown by some of the language used - for example, ...Hazel Whitby's fingers transmuted into an unctuous bejewelled spider..., Hazel gave a chocolate coated giggle, ...discharged a loud guffaw. To me, this sounds pretentious and frankly unnecessary, as though an editor has gone through the pages at random and decided to beef up the language used with some extra adjectives. Thankfully, the language seems to settle down after the prologue and becomes much plainer, which I think suits this type of crime fiction much better.

Other minor negatives are to do with the way the book is set out. Sometimes I found I got to the bottom of a page and expected the next one to continue along the same lines, but suddenly, we would skip to another scene without warning. Some kind of mark to show that one scene had ended would have been useful. Then there is the cover of the book, which shows a stately home. Unfortunately, it looks cheap and badly made, to the extent that if I had seen it on sale in a book shop, I would probably not have given it a second glance. I rarely judge a book by its cover, but in this instance, I would have and it would have been a shame.

All in all, I liked this book. It isn't brilliant, it won't go down in literary history, but I don't think the author intended it to be anything other than a bit of fun and that, it certainly is. I'm not sure it is worth purchasing at full price, but if you can get a bargain, go for it. Four stars.

If you enjoy this type of 'cozy', traditional crime fiction, you will also enjoy books such as Coroner's Pidgin, by Margery Allingham and Wycliffe and the Dunes Mystery by W J Burley.

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