* Prices may differ from that shown
A Nice Class of Corpse is the first novel featuring Mrs. Pargeter by Simon Brett.
Simon Brett is a murder/mystery writer who delights in writing novels whose characters have dubious morals, even the detective involved. He tends to pick enganging slightly older characters for his investigator, and they tend not to be policemen or professional investigators. He is also a screenwriter and TV dramatist, in general I find his novels funny, witty, slightly sarcastic and always a little on the smutty side. His other famous series of novels are the Charles Paris series about a jobbing alcoholic womenising actor and Fethering, a fictional village where murder does lurk.
Simon has written 6 novels about Mrs. Pargeter, Mrs (Melita) Pargeter is a widowed women in her late sixties. Her ex-husband Mr. Pargeter was a man of many skills, most of them illegat though the exact nature is never revealed. From inference we get the sense that Mr. Pargeter was a bit of a gentlemen thief and conman with a healthy respect for common decency. His skills have rubbed onto his wife and the novel is dotted with little sayings from Mr. Pargeter about the use of illegal means to get the information required. Mrs. Pargeter is also a women though in her late sixties, still with a earthy sense of humour and still desires shall we say, with particular pride in her still shapely legs.
A Nice Class of Corpse
This novel introduces us to Mrs. Pargeter who after the death of her husband decides to move into a little private hotel in the fictional seaside town of Littlehampton. Littlehampton can be viewed as a parody of Eastbourne or Southampton. Just after she moves into the hotel, one of the elderly residents is found dead at the botton of the stairs, it looks like an accidental slip but we know that it's murder because the author uses the technique of making the killer write a diary. The diary discusses every murder before and after, and with only 8 residents all elderly in the hotel we know it's one of the elderly residents.
Mrs. Pargeter of course suspects foul play, and clashes with the hotels owner and sets out to find out what happened. Along the way we are given plenty of dark humour in the placement of a story in the middle of basically a old peoples home for the better off. Each of the residents are given rather generic old peoples problems, one's a drinker, one's deaf, one's vain to the point of ranking every resident by social status, there's the very old brittle women, the colonel from the war, etc etc. They are all inflicted with a desire for life but placed in a place where life is slowly ebbing away. Mrs. Pargeter arrives she's a little too loud, a little too rude and crude and has a dubious past.
One murder turns into another and very quickly it becomes a choice between two of the residents, there is a little side story about fake jewels and the slow decline in life.
Mrs. Pargeter of course discovers the murder but allows chance to decide there fate. Mrs. Pargeter is a miss Marple type character, or at least a miss marple whose lived on the wrong side of the law for most of her life. She's rude and a little crude but is lovely to read about, the book is a short one only about 190 pages and they aren't the most word dense pages. I'd guess the book could be read in an afternoon without too many problems, in a way it's light and frothy but it delights rather than disappoints and makes you want to read more about the mysterious, engaging Mrs. Pargeter.