I enjoy reading Simon Brett’s writing – see my reviews of Death on the Downs, Mrs Pargeter’s Public Relations, The Liar in the Library, The Killer in the Choir and Guilt at the Garage. But I’d particularly enjoyed the first book in this series, The Clutter Corpse – see my review. I snapped this one up with excitement when I saw it featured on Netgalley, though I was a tad worried at just how much I was looking forward to diving in, as that can often be a recipe for disappointment – would I enjoy this one as much?
BLURB: “My mother’s going to kill herself . . . That is, if I don’t kill her first.” When Alexandra Richards approaches professional declutterer Ellen Curtis to ask her to help sort out her mother’s chaotic flat, Ellen gets the impression Alexandra doesn’t like her mother very much. But after hearing the local news, Alexandra’s exasperated words don’t seem such a joke…
REVIEW: And that’s as much of this very chatty blurb that I’m inclined to share – don’t read it as it spoils far too much of the plot. I loved this one – indeed, it’s on my Outstanding Reads of the Year list. Ellen is a lovely character, who is briskly efficient and clearly extremely intelligent. She also has dealt with a devastating tragedy in her life with fortitude and resilience. And yes… I know she’s fictional, but I finished this book full of warmth towards this wonderful, three-dimensional protagonist. Brett is an accomplished, experienced author whose main characters are often a bit larger than life, but Ellen isn’t one of those. Her thoughtful, quieter outlook drew me right into the story as she tries to unpick what appears to be an accidental death that she increasingly feels is something else.
Ellen is also surrounded by a strong supporting cast – I love her relationship with her ebullient mother, who is clearly dissatisfied with Ellen’s life choices and delights in emphasising her closeness with Ellen’s daughter. Unlike so many fictional families, they don’t get to hurl hurtful truths at each other that in real life would probably cause complete estrangement. And I also found Ellen’s relationship with her son, who suffers from clinical depression, achingly realistic.
I’m conscious that I’ve managed to make this one sound a rather fraught, dreary read – and it’s nothing of the sort. Set in my neck of the woods, I found myself spluttering with laughter at Brett’s pithy descriptions of local settings. Meanwhile, the murder mystery is beautifully plotted. The pacing is spot on, there are a satisfying number of potential suspects – and of course, I’d spotted the perpetrator. Until halfway through the denouement scene, when I realised it wasn’t who I thought it was… Nicely done! All in all, this is by far the best written murder mystery I’ve read this year and while I’d recommend that you grab the first book, just because it’s also a cracking read – it isn’t necessary to appreciate this gem. Very highly recommended. While I obtained an arc of An Untidy Death from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
This one struck me just right–great review .
Thank you so much, Rae:)).
The cover makes it seem like a quirky story, but I like that there is some depth to it. Lovely review😁
Thank you, Tammy:). Brett’s Charles Paris series, which was his first, was as much comedy as whodunit. And I think that label has rather stuck – I’m not a huge fan of these covers, as I don’t think they give the right impression.
A murder mystery, a very relatable character and a plot that manages to surprise even the most astute reader: this sounds like the perfect recipe for an engaging read! 🙂
Thanks for sharing!
Thank you, Maddalena:). I’ve always enjoyed Brett’s writing style – he has a sharp wit which manages not to be cruel, which I appreciate. But in this series, I think his writing has reached its peak.
I bought the first one and hope to get to it sooner than later. Excellent review
Thank you, Anne:). I hope you get a chance to pick up the first one – but I know what it’s like when the TBR pile is so very high:)).
I will try to grab the first one. Thanks for sharing. I have a feeling I will enjoy these!
I think you’d really enjoy these, Kimberly. Apart from anything else – they are genuinely quite different. Not full of grim and grit, but defintely not all that cosy, either.