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Debra Hamel is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.


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Barnard, Robert: Death of a Mystery Writer

  Amazon  

3.5 stars

Surly Sir Oliver Farleigh-Stubbs, the author of a string of commercially successful mysteries, revels in making life miserable for those around him. When a dinner party at a neighbor's house seems to be passing with too little discord, for example, the author enlivens the affair by making manifest his uncharitable opinion of the crumbed cutlet set before him:

"Oliver Farleigh sank into a mood of intense depression: he gazed at the cutlet as if it were a drowned friend whose remains he was trying to identify at a police morgue. He picked up a forkful of mashed potato, inspected it, smelled it, and finally, with ludicrously overdone reluctance, let it drop into his mouth, where he chewed it for fully three minutes before swallowing. Conversation flagged."

After the cutlet has been downed, Sir Oliver invites these same neighbors to his upcoming birthday celebration, a family gathering regarded with dread by all concerned, not as an act of kindness but so they may serve as "diversionary targets."

Given a lifetime, more or less, of his theatrical antisocial behavior, it is hardly surprising that Farleigh-Stubbs's death--he is murdered at the aforementioned birthday party--upsets virtually no one. (The reading of his will is a more emotional affair for the principals.) But which of the author's myriad victims was incensed enough by his abuse to kill him? Well written, and with an appealing cast of characters, Death of a Mystery Writer is another fine whodunit from Robert Barnard.

(Interestingly, the last sentence of the book--or perhaps just the last, four-word phrase--seems as if it was tacked on as an afterthought, perhaps in response to someone's suggestion that the author's intent was not otherwise clear. But it was clear, and the ending would have been slightly stronger without the superfluous text.)

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