The Herring In The Library by L.C. Tyler

9780230714687A comic crime novel set in Worthing, The Herring In The Library lines up all the tropes of the genre in an enjoyable identity parade: a murder during dinner at a country house, amateur sleuths determined to get to the bottom of it, some nods to Cluedo, a coded message…there’s even a dramatically-revealed secret passage at one point. And crucially everyone – but everyone – has motive and opportunity to strangle Sir Robert in his study at Muntham Court. A shifty gardener, a jilted lover, a ruined ex-colleague, a cuckolded husband – and where exactly does Sir Robert’s surgically-enhanced wife Lady Annabelle fit in to all this? Part of a series by L.C. Tyler with Ethelred (a third-rate crime writer) and his spiky, overweight agent Elsie who are – Secret Seven-like – always seemingly in the thick of it when some dastardly deed or other is committed, including when a troubled toff – as in this case – comes to a sticky end. For Sir Robert – an old university chum (actually they didn’t really get on) of Ethelred’s – is certainly not too chipper in the months prior to his death. Something, or possibly someone, is obviously bothering him. Tyler’s earlier novel A Very Persistent Illusion was an enjoyable read, a different sort of mystery in which the rug was pulled effectively away from the protagonist – and the reader – after a road trip search. This is in some ways a far more obvious affair, told more or less in alternate chapters from Ethelred’s perspective (fairly unquestioning, largely clueless, utterly fascinated by Annabelle and unaware even of the fact that he has most to gain from Sir Robert’s untimely demise) and from Elsie’s (intuitive, inquisitive, convinced of her own rightness, immune to Annabelle’s charms). The narrative is interspersed with Ethelred’s latest work in progress, featuring the amusing, ill-plotted adventures of 14th century detective Master Thomas, a minion of Chaucer, who is captivated by an aristocratic lady whose husband has been murdered… Any modern book whose short chapters end with lines like: ‘Come quickly! Something terrible has just happened…’ gets my vote. Light as one of shadowy housekeeper Mrs Michie’s meringues although you wouldn’t want more than one at a sitting. Comfort reading, within reason.

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