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Customer Review

5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully visual and fresh, 10 Feb. 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: An Embarrassment of Corpses (Hardcover)
This novel made me homesick for England. But pleasantly so. It opens in London's Trafalgar Square, which lives in my memory as the place to go on Christmas Eve. There would be a huge Christmas tree, sent over from Norway, I believe, all decorated and lit up, and hundreds of people singing Christmas carols. There's no Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square in the opening of this book. There is a body instead. It is discovered by Oliver Swithin, who has hay-colored hair that is straight and floppy. teeth that are too prominent, docile blue eyes behind wire-framed spectacles. He is wearing a tuxedo that has seen better days. Not a macho hero, one deduces almost immediately. Sir Hargreaves (Harry) Random was "floating face-down in a Trafalgar Square Fountain....with a look of mild irritation on his face, mortified in all senses of the word." Listen to this. Far above ... the rising sun was gilding the pigeon guano on Nelson's hat." (For the unknowing, Nelson's column is one of the primary features of Trafalgar Square.) There are a lot of wonderfully visual and fresh images like that throughout this well-wrought novel. Here's a description of a police officer, Sergeant Welkin: "He was an overweight man in his thirties, with a black moustache and a harsh boxer's face, who invariably reminded people of someone else they knew. He bred Burmese cats." Oliver writes a series of books about a "Foul-mouthed, chain-smoking, ex-public-schoolboy ferret named Finsbury.... giving the beast all the vices he had never possessed." The series of course becomes a critical and financial success, though not for Oliver, who isn't getting any of the money. "Hoist by your own pet," Oliver's uncle murmurs. The Finsbury books expose the infants of England to the evils of alcohol, drugs, pornography, promiscuity, soccer hooliganism, smoking, and country and western music." (Ahem! Excuse me?) Mr. Beechey very cleverly, after introducing Finsbury, obeys the dictum that if you show a ferret early in the plot, the ferret should bite someone before the end. If left to myself here, I'd quote the whole book and you wouldn't have to buy it and that would never do. Oliver as sleuth is assisted by, or sometimes desisted by, his Uncle , Inspector Tim Mallard of the Yard. He sleuths by Zodiac signs, following the trail of a serial murderer. He also yearns for Sergeant Effie Strongitharm and fantasizes her response to him with replies that range from a snorted "With *you*?" to a breathless, "At last--take me now, my shy young hero among men." He's not too successful with Effie, which is hardly surprising. There are many surprises in this book so I'm not going to tell anything about the plot progression. One big surprise almost lifted me out of bed, where I was reading. For a few pages, I was really......no that would be a spoiler. There are a lot of puns in this book, and as you've seen--much humor. Not of the slapstick kind, but my favorite kind of understated English humor that depends mostly on a very satisfying use of words. I'm looking forward to reading the next installment. I loved this book And I've decided I have to visit London next year. For sure.
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