*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Clutter Corpse – Book 1 of the Decluttering Mysteries by Simon Brett #Brainfluffbookreview #TheClutterCorpsebookreview

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I’m a fan of Simon Brett’s murder mystery series – his slick, well crafted prose always draws me in and it doesn’t hurt that they are usually set in my neck of the woods, so it’s always a treat to see place names I know and like pop up in amongst the story and this one is no exception. See my reviews of Death on the Downs, Mrs Pargeter’s Public Relations, The Liar in the Library, and The Killer in the Choir.

BLURB: Introducing an engaging new amateur sleuth, declutterer Ellen Curtis, in the first of a brilliant new mystery series.

And that’s all there is of the blurb, which is a refreshing change in these days of long paragraphs full of spoilery details. It also does exactly what it says on the tin. While I really enjoyed the whodunit aspect of this story, as Brett is a solidly good craftsman in producing interesting murders and a raft of likely suspects, that wasn’t the highlight of this book. For me, what stands with this one is the gripping backstory that unfurls as the book progresses regarding Ellen’s past life. It is a staple of this genre that private investigators often have a lurid past, but they also often bear the war wounds. It generally doesn’t take the reader long to appreciate that our feisty protagonist is lugging around more baggage than your upper-class Victorian explorer – not so this time around.

Ellen’s job of decluttering houses is clearly a second career, as she has two grown-up children and no husband in evidence. There’s nothing unusual in that. She has an edgy relationship with her mother and daughter – nothing unusual in that, either. Brett does a very nice line in difficult female relationships. I enjoy reading of the unexpressed anger simmering between a daughter who feels her mother made a poor job of bringing her up – it’s a dynamic that isn’t often depicted so honestly. I get a tad tired of seeing fictional family members, both in books and on TV, saying all sorts of scaldingly honest and hurtful truths that would in real life mean permanent estrangement, yet next time around, everything seems to be normal.

Not so, here. Ellen keeps her thoughts about her mother’s behaviour to herself. But then, she doesn’t wear her heart on her sleeve at all. She comes across as kind and caring, but also briskly efficient and resourceful. And certainly not a victim – and then as the story wears on, we learn what happened in her marriage and the ongoing consequences of that. And my eyes filled with tears at her sheer gutsy courage and quiet fortitude.
Yes… I know she’s a fictional character, but I’ve fallen for her, hook, line and sinker. Ellen is such a refreshing change in these days where everyone’s emotions are on their sleeves and they share all their gladnesses and sadnesses online.

I also appreciated the supporting cast of characters – particularly Ellen’s mother – and that complicated, beautiful best friend. I’m delighted to have encountered this series, because I know Simon Brett is a prolific author and I’m very much looking forward to reading more intriguing murders in this setting – but above all, I’m desperate to meet up with Ellen, again. Highly recommended for fans of intelligent cosy murder mysteries with an awesome protagonist. While I obtained an arc of The Clutter Corpse from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10
26.3.20


14 responses »

    • I am a fan of his writing – he is a deft plotter which is important with whodunits and his Charles Paris, Mrs Pargeter and his Fethering protagonists are all sparky and slightly larger than life – what I find particularly impressive about Ellen is that she isn’t. Brett allows the narrative to uncover her courage and resilience. It’s so much harder technically to do this well…

    • Yes, it is always a treat, when you see a name of a place you know well pop up in a book and given that we live in a reasonably small, unfashionable town on the south coast, that doesn’t happen very often! He has written several series of murder mysteries and his Charles Paris series has been dramatised on BBC Radio 4, with Bill Nighey as Charles Paris, which he does brilliantly. But I far prefer this latest offering:))

  1. All right, you’ve got me, I’ve got this one on order at the library. 🙂 But I keep feeling like his name’s tied to YA somehow…it might be because there was that book called “Love, Simon” or something like that.

    • Oh no… Simon Brett doesn’t write for that market at all. His murder mysteries aren’t all that gory – but his work is definitely aimed at adults… I’m looking forward to hearing what you think of this one!

      • You’re absolutely right. I’m sure I’ve connected YA to Simon Brett because his name was in that one title. He’s got quite the publishing history in mysteries!

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