Saturday, May 23, 2015

Murder Strikes Pink - Josephine Pullein-Thompson

I'm dog sitting today - for a 9 week old puppy who has just realised that her (our) mum has gone out without her and is a little bit upset about it. It might be a long morning...

Meanwhile the country setting is a reminder that I haven't got round to writing about 'Murder Strikes Pink' yet. It was my second Greyladies purchase, and the second of their Josephine Pullein-Thompson detective novels. Like 'Gin and Murder' it has a horsey background but this time in show jumping rather than hunting.

Theodora Thistleton is wealthy, ageing, and hugely unpleasant. Passionate about showjumping, and even more so about winning, she bullies her relatives, her grooms, her secretaries, and her rider (who is loosing her edge and hitting the booze as a result). Theodora's cousin, and heir, Laurence has a marriage on the rocks which is all adding to the tension as his wife, Marion, is drafted in by TT to dogsbody after the majority of her staff decide they've had enough and clear off en masse.

And then TT is found dead, poisoned, and everyone has a motive along with an opportunity.

My favourite book featuring showjumping will probably always be Jilly Cooper's 'Riders', partly because I read it (more than once) at an impressionable age. Josephine P-T's showjumping world is less glamorous and more believable (there's something gloriously English about the fatal dose being delivered via a thermos of pink milkshake in the owners enclosure) but 'Murder Strikes Pink' lacks something that 'Gin and Murder' had. The plot is as ingenious, though it's easier to spot the who, if not the why, in this one. Perhaps the problem is the TT is so universally foul to all around that it's a surprise it's taken so long to do her in. It helps if you can feel some sympathy for the victim.

It's a small quibble however, and overall this is thoroughly enjoyable with touches that make it something special. One of the put upon secretaries is spectacularly annoying - she's clumsy, forgetful, talks to much, is obsessed by who's turn it is to do a task, and constantly bemoans how unkind or unfair people are. She could so easily be a charicature but instead I had the impression of a woman employed by a bully because she will be so easy to bully, of the Sour atmosphere that arises when 3 middle aged women share a house together, especially when one is a much weaker character and all are somewhat embittered, and all the petty frustrations of unhappiness.

Laurence and Marion's faltering marriage put under strain by tight finances and a glamorous divorcee also avoids cliche. The glamorous divorcee in turn is more than just a femme fatale - and so it goes. The real joy of both this and 'Gin and Murder' has been in how fairly stock characters have been
given real humanity. Both books are well worth seeking out for an afternoons entertainment.

My charge for the day. One of us will end up tired out. I'm willing to bet it's me. 

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