Monday, August 05, 2019

50. Death on the Broadlands by Alan Hunter

I bought this at the excellent Dark Carnival simply based on the cover and the back blurb saying it was in the "classic John Buchan tradition".  This latter is wildly erroneous, though it is indeed British.  I learned after reading it that this is one of over 50 George Gently novels, which are quite highly regarded (and inspired several TV series) and which I will keep an eye out for.  In this one, though, Gently is a secondary character, whose true identity is not revealed to the protagonist until almost the very end.

The protagonist is Stella Rushton, semi-succesful novelist who was recently quite badly jilted by a somewhat public figure whose biography she had written.  She receives an invitation to stay in a lovely cottage in the Broadlands which I guess was a somewhat well-known vacation spot in Norfolk.  Though a wreck at first, Stella soon reveals that she truly has a writer's observation, a strong spirit and an independent sexuality.  She wants to stay alone to write but soon gets sucked into the social life at the larger house of the cottage's owner, a very successful play-write.  They are a catty and somewhat unpleasant crew, except perhaps young Keith, morose heir to an engineering firm who falls into puppy love with Stella.

It takes a while for the crime to actually happen but the idyllic surroundings gradually become tainted by the human foibles of the theatre crew and others.  I was quite enjoying the book for the first half, especially the wonderful descriptions of the locations and the somewhat nasty characters.  The book fails a bit in that the crime itself is not that interesting and the solution less so.  I will spoil the book somewhat to say that the murder victim being young Keith was an interesting gender reversal of the all too common oversexed young girl victim.  Stella's ultimate callousness to his death seemed to underline this.  Interesting for a book written in the early '80s.  I will check out some of the earlier Gently books if they pass my way.

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