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Adair, Gilbert - 'A Mysterious Affair of Style'
Hardback: 288 pages (Nov. 2007) Publisher: Faber and Faber ISBN: 0571234259

The lonely retired Chief Inspector Trubshawe runs into crime fiction author Evadne Mount at the Ritz Hotel, and is invited to a charity performance at the Haymarket. Evadne has written a curtain raiser, a mini-whodunit, for the performance. Evadne's fictional detective Alexis Baddeley is to be played by Cora Rutherford, an old friend of Evadne, and acquaintance of "Trubbers" from their previous collaboration in the first in this series, THE ACT OF ROGER MURGATROYD.

Wining and dining at the Ivy after the performance they hear of the death of the brilliant but obnoxious film director Alastair 'Farje' Farjeon, and starlet Patsy Sloots, in a fire at Farje's villa in Cookham.

A few weeks after the mini-whodunit Trubshawe and Evadne are invited to view Cora filming in "If Ever They Find Me Dead" at Elstree Studios. Cora drops dead during the filming of a scene after drinking a poisoned glass of champagne. The scene was altered at the last minute by Farje's replacement Rex Hanway, therefore only the five people who knew of the alteration could have poisoned Cora.

This sets the scene for Evadne and Eustace to investigate the stereotypical suspects and their motives in the classic manner of the house party mystery...

Gilbert Adair's second novel featuring the odd ball detecting team of Evadne Mount and Eustace Trubshawe, A MYSTERIOUS AFFAIR OF STYLE, is a really fun read. This book made a pleasant change from my usual fare of Sicilian setups, Scandinavian angst and Icelandic introspection.

It is a light fluffy entertaining book, containing a very minimum of social comment, and gives homage to the Golden Age of English murder mysteries. Homage drifts into pastiche, and pastiche into outright parody, and Adair makes fun of everybody including theatre luvvies, film people, and even along the way crime fiction aficionados.

I did manage to spot the murderer before the final denouement, but I think anyone who has read any Agatha Christie would.

One small point is that you should not try to make a joke about Germany and Jews in the 1930s unless you have the exceptional talent of a Mel Brooks.

Norman Price, England
November 2007

Norman blogs at
Crime Scraps.

last updated 23/11/2007 15:56