Moody, Susan - 'Grand Slam' (Unabridged Audiobook) read by Julia Franklin
Tape 1 begins with the warning that "this recording may in part offend some listeners". However there isn't anything too gruesome or grisly but there is some swearing and a couple of sex scenes, so not really a cosy. GRAND SLAM, published in 1994, is in fact an enjoyable amateur sleuth novel, second in the series that features Cotswolds based Cassandra Swann, bridge teacher.
To make a living Cassie teaches night classes both locally and at a nearby prison. At the prison she meets a prisoner, John Burslake, whom she feels was actually set up. He confides in her that his building business had been used to import drugs and that one of the top men behind it was a bridge player with a flashy watch. Burslake does not ask for help from the police as he feels his life will not be worth living if he snitches. When he's sent down for a long stretch he manages to escape during his transportation to another prison and throws himself under a car. Distressed, Cassie wonders if she can identify the man he spoke of.
Another stream of Cassie's income comes from partnering Royston Chilcott a businessman who's looking to make contacts. They are due to play in London but then the venue is suddenly switched to Halkam Court, home of Lord and Lady Wickham. All goes well until Chilcott plays a bad hand and blames Cassie for his losses. On the way home he turns Cassie out of the car leaving her soaked and shivering as she makes her way back to Halkam Court. The next day the body of Lady Portia Wickham is found on the drive, shot twice.
Cassie had never met Portia Wickham but she feels an affinity to the dead woman whom she believed she would have liked and so begins to do a little questioning of some of her fellow bridge players and the handsome butler who looked after her when she appeared bedraggled out of the night. In addition she gets some assistance from the attractive Sergeant Walsh who makes it clear he’d like to offer her more than just information.
As well as the main case and deliberating on John Burslake’s situation, Cassie also receives some background to her father's murder, which happened when she was small, and starts to follow that up. She also has to fend off the romantic overtures of Charlie Quartermain, a friend who believes with persistence he will get into her bed, one day.
When the police arrest the wrong man, the pieces begin to fall into place for Cassie and ultimately lead her into a dangerous situation from which she's lucky to escape.
GRAND SLAM is a very pleasant listen and is quite humorous. I enjoyed Cassie’s ‘voice’ and found her believable and likeable and the bridge playing is not sufficiently detailed as to lose a novice like myself. Cassie’s detecting involved mostly questioning people and not doing anything too stupid except perhaps not telling the police who she thought the killer was before confronting them, but to be fair she hadn't expected to find them alone. The who- and why-dunnit came as a surprise but looking back a lot of the clues were there and it was a clever solution that made me smile with pleasure.
Julia Franklin's narration really brought Cassie to life, and she has a great ability to portray both male and female characters in a variety of regional accents making it easy to follow who is speaking. Others in this six book series available as audio books are the first and third entries: TAKEOUT DOUBLE (APA DEATH TAKES A HAND) and KING OF HEARTS.
Karen Meek, England