Owing largely to insomnia and a Kindle Unlimited free trial, I’ve been galloping rather hectically through many books, without the ability to corral my thoughts about them into any very coherent and entertaining form.
(Quick guide: Paul Halter – imagination set to stun; characterisation levels dangerously low; improbability drive – fully engaged.
Molly Thynne – the oiks and foreigners did it.
‘Crime in 100 books’ – consarn you, Martin Edwards! I have not world enough and time (let alone cash) for that much fine-looking reading).
Still, I feel ‘Come to Paddington Fair’ deserves an attempt at review.
The story begins, intriguingly, with a young bank clerk’s heroism, followed by his arrest for bank robbery in the next chapter, to the chagrin of Detective Steve Castle who hates to see a good man throw himself away.
Some years later, Castle receives an invitation to ‘Come to Paddington Fair’ along with two tickets to a mystery play. He takes along his friend – and amateur sleuth – Algy Lawrence and they are both treated to the spectacle of a murder, live and messy on stage.
The murderer seems obvious, a man with a known grudge who has a gun, an evil-villain laugh and a complete willingness to confess. But, of course, that just wouldn’t be in the spirit of things and complications soon satisfyingly ensue.
I really enjoyed this one. The writing was good, with a detailed and lively theatre setting. Algy Lawrence may be a mish-mash of several idle rich sleuths, with his ‘athletic young body” and tendency to descend into near narcolepsy whenever the grey cells are particularly active but he is a nice, polite chap and works well, if implausibly, with Inspector Steve Castle. The murder itself –initially straightforward, then developing increasing layers of complexity – was very cleverly done. I liked the dark significance of ‘Paddington Fair’. And, as a bonus, there was a bear (though sadly, being stuffed, it was unable either to pursue anyone or consume marmalade sandwiches).
I gather that Smith’s first novel, ‘Whistle up the Devil’ is supposed to be even better. On the strength of this, I guess I’ll soon be learning to whistle.
Any Other Business
(Slight spoiler warnings):
There are apparently a few more Paddington related slang phrases including wearing ‘Paddington spectacles’ and ‘doing the Paddington frisk’. Hint – you do not wish to try either.
I also learned that love is the root of all evil. Mervan, Lesley, Trent and Penny all have good cause to hunt down Cupid and return his arrows, with extreme prejudice. About the only happy relationship was between Herbert Windsor and Trudy Ann – rest assured, though, in the (unwritten) next book, Trudy Ann dumps Herbert for an influential director, he writes one last, bitter play denouncing all women and then proceeds to a spectacular murder/suicide on a tiger skin rug. And without brushing his hair first.