Monday, October 3, 2016

A Little Local Murder - Robert Barnard

This was the second Barnad I read, and it's the other one that Pan have recently re issued. Again I'm not entirely sure about the cover, it's very pretty and it sums up the idyllic country village image that the residents of Twytching would surely relish... But for a book written in 1976 it just doesn't seem to have the right tone. It doesn't hint at the edge to Barnard's humour either.

The village of Twytching is on tenterhooks with the news that the local radio station us Hong to make a programme about them to be broadcast with their twinned town in America. Mrs Deborah Withens (who I assume references Mary Whitehouse) who is accustomed to ruling the place with a rod of iron assumes she'll get to choose who appears in the show, and it seems everybody wants to appear on the show.

Not all is as idyllic as it seems though, there have been nasty anonymous letters doing the rounds, people are frightened, and when the first villager chosen turns up dead it all begins to get very nasty indeed.

It's a frequently funny book, but darker than 'The Case of the Missing Brontë'. There's something disconcertingly real about the murder and the solution to it which is at odds with the humour. The result is a very effective but slightly uncomfortable tension running through the book which makes it hard to pin down.

On the whole I preferred 'The Case of the Misssing Brontë', which seemed less complicated, but the two books together make for a good introduction to Barnard. They're sufficiently different to make it clear that he does more than one thing, and to indicate which thing the reader might want to pursue in his writing. For me it'll be the more obviously funny books - but that's a choice based on personal preference rather than quality considerations.


  1. I must confess that, having loved the Brontë book, I gave up on this one. It is very different as you say, and the humour just left me cold. I've read other Barnards I liked, though - he's certainly a very varied writer.

  2. It made me think I'd have been better to try them the other way round. The humour in the Brontë book was a bigger element, and although the violence gave it an edge it's still predominantly a funny book. In this one everything felt much darker - where there were jokes it didn't feel like there was much affection behind them. I do think it would make a very good TV adaptation, but it wasn't the light read it in an afternoon book that I was after the day I read it.

  3. This author sounds of interest to me, I do enjoy humor and mysteries.

  4. I've been eyeing series mysteries, but had never heard of this author. Thanks for introducing me!