Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Book: Blotto, Twinks and the Ex-King’s Daughter, by Simon Brett (U.S. 2011)

The whole frightful business begins with the discovery of a corpse in the library at Tawcester Towers (pronounced “Taster,” as people of refinement such as yourselves are no doubt aware). It’s between the wars, don’t you know, when England stood astride the globe like something really rather large, when all was cricket, and when the right sort of people were in charge. People like Devereaux Lyminster, youngest son of the Duke of Tawcester, called Blotto even though he seldom drinks. “Amongst people of his class it was thought bad form for nicknames to have logical explanations; they were items to be scattered about with random largesse, like small donations to charity.” Not to mention Blotto’s beautiful and relentlessly capable sister Lady Honoria, known to all as Twinks. The siblings, with the aid of a discreet butler, a saucy housemaid, and a possibly psychotic chauffeur, will untangle the business of the corpse in the library, even if they have to venture all the way to the besieged and benighted nation of Mitteleuropia to do so.

The fact that Simon Brett feels free to make up countries should tell you all you need to know. Brett channels P. G. Wodehouse in this very funny book that is not afraid to get deeply silly. He also mercilessly skewers every convention of the Golden Age mystery; you will never look at idiosyncratic but basically lovable rustic eyewitnesses the same way again. If the notion of a Central European retreat dubbed Bad Vibesz or conversation “as stilted as a twelve-foot clown” doesn’t amuse, well, then perhaps you’d better look elsewhere for your entertainment. But why would you? My thanks to Mystery File for bringing this corker to my attention.