Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Caroline Graham. Death in Disguise (1992)

     Caroline Graham. Death in Disguise (1992) An Inspector Barnaby Mystery. Looking at the date, I see why this series is hard to find: paperbacks published twenty-some years have been pulped and made into boxboard.
     The series became the basis for the Midsomer Murders on TV. This book is well done. Graham is especially good at satirising fruit-loopery, in this case a New Age commune living in an ageing manor house. At times, this part of the story verges on farce, but Graham has an ill-suppressed fondness for some of these loopy people, who after all are merely trying to find what we all want, calm and a sense that the Universe isn’t too arbitrarily horrible. The murder puzzle is well set up, but a crucial detail about the killer’s past is omitted. The first victim is put down as an accident; the second and third are clearly murders. The main problem is that no one has any motive to kill the group’s leader, while the third murder looks like self-defence.
     As with all mysteries, we aren’t too involved with the victims, but we do care about some of the suspects. Barnaby is quite likeable, but not as complex as his TV self, but Sergeant Troy is much less likeable than his TV version. The other characters range from a despicable parvenu (but even he has a pitiful need to gain the love of his only child) to a pathetic traumatised boy. The murderer is your garden-variety sociopath: it’s clues to his character that should tip off the alert reader.
     A well done entertainment, which I read because I wanted to see the source of the TV series, which I like very much, even when it stumbles. I likely won’t read another Inspector Barnaby mystery, though. **½

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