A Little Local Murder by Robert Barnard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Up to almost the very end of Robert Barnard's "A Little Local Murder" I was thinking it was the weakest of his eight novels that I have read. Then the denouement came, and I do not think so any more. One of the most surprising, yet not implausible endings that I remember, and one that adds some gravity to the light satirical tone of the rest of the novel (quite unlike in the same author's "Bodies" reviewed here, where the grim ending is completely incongruous with the tone of the book).
The story happens in mid-1970s in Twytching, a small town in eastern England. Radio Broadwich is planning a documentary on the town to be broadcast in the twin town of Twytching, Wisconsin, U.S. All local personalities are jockeying to be on the show, which allows Mr. Barnard to offer a broad satire on small-town mentality and politics and lampoon the power games that people play. When a murder happens, Inspector Parrish and the tiny Twytching police force eventually manage to solve the case.
Robert Barnard has a unique gift of portraying people at their worst. We are vain, selfish, pompous, scheming, controlling, conceited, duplicitous, pretentious, full of envy, and just plain stupid, and Mr. Barnard illustrates it using his wonderfully acerbic wit and sardonic writing style. Allow me a quote: "[...] asked Jean, idly thinking it would be difficult to select a more thoroughly uninteresting specimen of the local population than Miss Potts, strong though the competition was." Later in the novel, we are told about the joyful anticipation of a husband to have his beloved wife arrested. Fun read! I am looking forward to more Robert Barnard to fill spaces between more serious literary works.
Two and three quarter stars.
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