Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Night She Died

The Night She Died (1981) is the first in Dorothy Simpson's Inspector Luke Thanet series, and Miss Lemon is afraid that it is not her best.

It's not that the premise fails to intrigue. Quite the opposite. In The Night She Died, a young woman named Julie Holmes is found stabbed in the foyer of her home. The only fingerprints on the knife are Julie's.

Even the briefest enquiries produce a long list of suspects. From her husband, who discovered her body within minutes of her death, to a woman who once knew Julie's now-dead mother. What the enquiries don't produce is much certainty about the dead woman's private life. Thanet knows she had a jealous ex-boyfriend, who is a presenter for the BBC. She also had a boss, who seemed to be harassing her. What he can't account for is where exactly all of these people were on the night Julie Holmes died.

All of this is terribly interesting to Miss Lemon. So perhaps the problem is that this novel suffers from the first-timer writer's compulsion to trust too little in the reader and to tell too much.

The painstaking description of Thanet's every inner thought she found especially tedious. And in his relationship with the less experienced DS Mike Lineham, Thanet is depicted as being both priggish and condescending.

None of this, however, was so annoying that Miss Lemon couldn't get to the part where she learns whodunit.

Lest her dear readers give Mrs. Simpson a miss entirely, Miss Lemon suggests that they start with Close Her Eyes, where Thanet is less tiresome and the pacing is at perfect pitch. Or perhaps an even later entry. For a full bibliography of the Inspector Thanet series, one need only consult this handy list on Fantastic Fiction.

Ah, the joys of Internet communication. Miss Lemon feels very modern.

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