Michael Gilbert: Death Has Deep Roots

Title: Death Has Deep Roots
Author: Michael Gilbert
Series: Inspector Hazlerigg #5

An eager London crowd awaits the trial of Victoria Lamartine: hotel worker, ex-French Resistance fighter, and the only logical suspect for the murder of her supposed lover, Major Eric Thoseby. Lamartine – who once escaped from the clutches of the Gestapo – is set to meet her end at the gallows.
One final opportunity remains: the defendant calls on solicitor Nap Rumbold to replace the defence counsel, and grants an eight-day reprieve from the proceedings. Without any time to spare, Rumbold boards a ferry across the Channel, tracing the roots of the brutal murder back into the war-torn past.

This book was so enjoyable, I almost forgot that this was half legal drama, which is something I usually don’t care much about. I just want to read about a detective figuring out the mystery and I only got this for half the book. But it was a quite brilliant half. As you can already guess from the tagline, this isn’t the typical murder at the manor (or murder in the sleepy village) mystery; but it’s also not a story set during the second world war, only one that’s very much about it. The motive can be found in events that happened back then and wouldn’t have taken place in peacetime. Now I enjoy the good old ‘offing the horrid family patriarch for the inheritance’ plotlines as much as the next mystery reader but since diving into the British Crime Library classics and coming across a few stories that were more anchored to a certain time, I found myself enjoying those immensely as well and Death Has Deep Roots is a great example of these types of stories.

Well, and the courtroom scenes were…bearable. As said, I just don’t care for legal thrillers that much but occasionally a crime novel will contain them and I must say that at least I found them less exhausting than e.g. in Excellent Intentions (I’m still haunted by the prosecutor’s run-on sentences) and thankfully it’s also not really a novel that’s half courtroom-scenes. The parts that featured the legal team also contained planning, discussions and bouncing theories back and forth. Almost like two detectives discussing a case 😉

Gilbert is definitely an author I will look out for and see what else he’s written.

ARC received from NetGalley

Alan Melville – Quick Curtain

Title: Quick Curtain
Author: Alan Melville

When Douglas B. Douglas—leading light of the London theatre—premieres his new musical extravaganza, Blue Music, he is sure the packed house will be dazzled by the performance. What he couldn’t predict is the death of his star, Brandon Baker, on stage in the middle of Act 2. Soon another member of the cast is found dead, and it seems to be a straightforward case of murder followed by suicide.

Inspector Wilson of Scotland Yard—who happens to be among the audience—soon discovers otherwise. Together with Derek, his journalist son, Wilson takes charge of proceedings in his own inimitable way.

The issues I had with this book were very similar to those I had with Weekend at Thrackley by the same author. It’s not funny enough to be a good parody – of either crime fiction or the theatre world – and doesn’t have a good enough plot to be an enjoyable crime novel. The ‘jokes’ about the theatre world all boil down to one thing: true talent – in writing, acting or singing – is meaningless, only talent-less hacks and horrible actors make ridiculous amounts of money because the audience is too stupid to tell one from the other. Even for a parody that’s a bit shallow. Non-theatre related jokes include hilarities like “No, you can’t go undercover. Everyone will be able to tell that you’re a policeman because of your large feet.” (Have you already died from laughter?) or an extremely infantile scene in which Wilson Jr. goes on a cycling tour despite having no experience and then his behind hurts.

Gif of Judd Hirsch saying “Hysterical”

Meanwhile, the crime story features a Scotland Yard detective who witnesses a murder on stage – the ever popular character is shoot in a scene but then the actor drops actually dead – but can’t be bothered to take a closer look at the prop gun to see if the deadly shoot really came from that gun and if perhaps there is some hint as to how the prop gun turned deadly. Later he meets a woman who introduces herself as the victim’s wife – Wilson wasn’t even aware that he was married – and doesn’t bother asking her a single question. Or her name. Or anything. There’s parody crime novels and then there’s this. Whatever this is. A book-like object as my favourite podcast would call it. But nothing I would recommend you should read.