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Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Book Review: A Shot in the Dark by Lynne Truss

You may already know Lynne Truss from her phenomenal book about grammar, Eats, Shoots, and Leaves. If so, you may be surprised to hear that her newest book is a historical British mystery. But you won't be surprised that it is filled with period slang and she has a lot of fun with language throughout. But if language isn't your thing, no worries, the plot is rollicking enough to carry you along without dwelling on what is really a minor aside.

In the English beach town of Brighton, the police are run by Inspector Steine who, years earlier, made his name in the Middle Street Massacre in which two local gangs were going to have a shootout, which the police were heading to, when they decided to stop for ice cream. The gangs completely and totally wiped each other out, while not a copper got a scratch on him. Steine (pronounced STEEN by the way, he'd like you to know) was lauded for the way he brilliantly allowed the bad guys to clean up the town for him, without any loss of life or even minor injury to the good guys. In the movie he was portrayed by a handsome leading man whereas his number two, Sergeant Brunswick, came off as a doddering fool. Since then Steine has bragged about the lack of crime in town. Brunswick has lamented that the crime there is has now gone totally underground and is hard to suss out, and worse, that Steine refuses to investigate anything (lest he be proven wrong) or even admit there is anything to investigate. Then a young whippersnapper, Constable Twitten, who has managed to offend half of the British police force in very short order, is assigned to Brighton, and immediately starts to look into a series of thefts which seem to be tied to the unsolved Aldersgate Stick-Up Case of 1945. While Steine is hastily trying to sweep it all under the rug, a renowned theater critic is shot and killed at the theater (while sitting next to Twitten) and the playwright is also murdered, which are much harder crimes for Steine to ignore.

This story is pretty hilarious. The period details for the 1950s are dead-on. There are loads of quirky characters and red herrings and a phrenologist and a strong lady and if you have any affinity for British mysteries of the mid-twentieth century, you will love Ms. Truss's farce, which is told with much love, even though she's also kind of making fun of them all. It was a ball of fun!

This book is published by Bloomsbury, which is distributed by Macmillan, my employer.

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