Friday, July 11, 2014

The Case Of The Missing Brontë (Perry Trethowan, #3)The Case Of The Missing Brontë by Robert Barnard
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Works by the Brontë sisters were mandatory reading in my high school in the 1960s yet I was never able to finish any of the books. I found the novels boring and I preferred reading various "counterculture" items and watching Monty Python's skit showing a semaphore version of "Wuthering Heights". Maybe that's why I do not particularly like Robert Barnard's "The Case of the Missing Brontë" (1983). It is a well written, and occasionally very funny mystery, but I find it the least interesting of the nine novels by Mr. Barnard that I have read so far.

Superintendent Perry Trethowan is on vacations with Jan and Daniel in Northumberland, when their car breaks down. Staying overnight in a small Yorkshire town they meet Miss Edith Wing, who tells them that she has found a manuscript, probably an unknown Brontë's draft. Few days later, Miss Wing is heavily assaulted and put in a hospital, where she fights for her life. Perry is assigned the case and tries to unravel the mystery of the missing manuscript.

The plot is rather pedestrian, and it is the occasional brilliant writing that somewhat redeems the novel. I laughed at the characterizations of some people from the U.S. - "all wind, or all fraud". The Yorkshire phrase "I said you didn't ought to have" is quite funny. What I enjoyed the most is the following clever wordplay: "[...] he just looked ahead with that bullish expression on his unintelligent policeman's face (I mean, of course, his unintelligent-policeman's face)". What a difference a dash makes! Superb writing! But not a superb book, by any means.

Two stars.

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