Death Of A Mystery Writer by Robert Barnard
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
After finishing the outstanding "A Scandal in Belgravia" (see review) I had an appetite for some more Robert Barnard. "Death of a Mystery Writer", although - typically for this author - an interesting, funny, and fast read, is not on the level of the other novel. It is just a solid, very traditional whodunit, set in England in mid-1970s.
Sir Oliver Fairleigh-Stubbs is a popular writer, author of bestselling but not particularly good mystery novels. He is quite a character; while being a "formidable upholder of Victorian attitudes", he is also an utterly obnoxious and unbearable person. The family and a couple of neighbors convene for his birthday party, which unfortunately for Sir Oliver ends in an event of the contrary kind. Inspector Meredith, quite a clever chap, commences the investigation.
The characterizations in the novel, both physical and psychological, are excellent. The writing is delightful, but I wish there were more of those eminently quotable passages like, for instance, "He had heaved himself into his club at St James's, where old men who had sodomized each other at school shook their heads over the younger generation." I find the mystery component adequate, fortunately there are no spurious plot twists, and the denouement is somewhat unexpected. Nice, pleasant read, but like Sir Oliver's novels, not a great literary achievement.
Two and a half stars.
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