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A Shot in the Dark

Novelist Lynne Truss is an interesting writer. She worked as a sportswriter, wrote an international best seller Eats Shoots and Leaves and has now written this comic detective novel based on her radio plays and set in Brighton in the fifties.

It’s not really a homage to Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock  as the Inspector Steine in her novel despised the book for lowering Brighton’s reputation. It’s even less like a Peter James thriller with its detailed observation of police procedure. It’s closest to Keith Waterhouse’s  Palace Pier with its memorable description of Brighton where he lived

”Brighton is helping the police with its enquiries  .”

I came across it in a  Sunday supplement on 100 Summer books. I never quite understand the criteria of these summer books as some commercial pot boilers were recommended alongside Cressida Connolly’s excellent After the Party.

I was attracted to it as it was set in Brighton. The plot starting with the murder of a theatre critic is somewhat far-fetched but it unraveled with plenty of twists and red herrings. The main characters are named after famous squares in Brighton – Old Steine, Palmeira, Brunswick –  there is also a Mrs Groynes, the station charlady ever ready with a cuppa, helpful advice and a slice of Genoa cake.

It’s laugh-out-loud funny with odd diversions into other fields like phrenology. She had done her home work on Brighton criminals.

The genuine comic novel is always a popular seller but runs the risk of becoming formulaic by the fourth novel so I hope Lynne Truss directs her considerable imagination and humour now in different directions.

About Melanie Gay

A former literary agent with three published novels of her own, Melanie retains her life-long love of the written word and recently mastered the Kindle. She is currently writing a historical novel set in 17th Century Britain and Holland. More Posts