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==Synopsis of the book:==
Perry Trethowan is a man who would like to forget his past. He is doing well in the Police force and is now an inspector with CID. He has done this successfully in terms of not having any contact with his family for 14 years, when he reads his father's obituary in The Times. This stirs little emotion up in Perry, but because of the odd circumstances of his father's dead the Deputy Assistant Commissioner asks Perry to help the local Police with background knowledge to find out the truth and who killed Leo Trethowan.
Perry has absolutely no desire to return to his child home of Harpenden House but now has no option. The family home is huge with different members of his eccentric family living in different named wings of the old dwelling. The family are very traditional and still have a couple who act as Housekeepers and provide services such as meals, cleaning and domestic support for them. None of them work in the traditional sense although they would claim all to be involved in the Arts in some for or another.
As soon as Perry arrives he is welcomed back into the family by his various relatives. It was his father he did not have any time for but even he was shocked to find he had been murdered while subjecting himself to a do-it-yourself torture contraption. This all is very embarrassing for Perry who knows he must find the truth otherwise he will always be goaded by his fellow officers about what his father was up to when he died.
==My thoughts on the novel:==
I found this novel to be a real contrast. There were things I found really odd, unbelievable and uninteresting about this novel, yet at the same time other parts of it were clever, enjoyable and well thought out. As a result I think on balance it was a worthwhile read and very much something very different from the normal crime thriller.
This was the first time I have read a novel by Robert Barnard so I did not really know what to expect. After checking I found he is an experienced author having written 41 novels, although this was his first in the Perry Trethowan series written back in 1981. I selected this novel on two simple facts, firstly I liked the title I thought it had many and varied possibilities. And secondly, the Good Book Guide's shinning endorsement of the quality of this novel.
It was back up by a very interesting sounding summary on the back cover of the book. It appealed to me the thought of this man having to investigate his father's unusual death despite not having seen or spoken to him in many years after a disagreement with him. I also like the concept of this very well to do family and all the secrets and lies that they held coming out into the open.
The story started in a most unusual way with Perry reading in the paper about his father's death. I found this quite unrealistic, not because he did not seen at all bothered by it but because I would have expected him to have heard from one of his other family members rather than read it in the paper, after all his feud was only with him not the other members of his family.
As I started to read more I started to struggle. The family were very different from anything I have ever read about in modern times. They were like a throw back from the 18th or 19th Century upper class. As a result I found them quite unrealistic, hard to understand and harder still to empathise with. Therefore for me while it was interesting to certainly wasn't the kind of story that had me riveted or engrossed in. At times I found it quite a hard slog to concentrate on what was happening and remember all the unusual conversations Perry had in the course of his investigation.
I stuck with it and was so pleased I did as I really enjoyed the last few chapters of the story. They more than made up for what I had read previously. I really liked the way Perry went through everything with his family in classic Agatha Christie style, explaining exactly what happened and why. I really enjoyed the way all the answered were found and the clever way the author pieced it all together so it all made perfect sense. But not only that I liked the final twists and turns the author put in when they were least expected towards the end of the book.
Humour sometimes subtle sometimes more apparent was a key feature in this story. I am admittedly not sure if it was supposed to be as funny as some of the scenes came across. It was light relief and when the story felt a bit slow it kept me amused and entertained.
Perry Trethowan was the lead character within the story and during the book he shared his thoughts, ideas and impressions with the reader, this helped understand both him and his lack of a relationship with his family. Although I was never convinced by why his disagreement with his father should stop him having a relationship with all his other family members. I found as a read his character grew on me and I enjoyed the way he investigated the case.
The other characters within the story I found very rich in their differences. I think that helped the reader understand who was who, but I did struggle to remember later who had said what about whom. I struggled with this extended family all living in the same admittedly massive house and not liking or getting on with one another but doing nothing about it. Most of these characters I really liked though because they were so different from the norm. I felt they had real personalities and you where never sure what unusual things they would get up to next and who was hiding what or indeed why.
The books comparatively short at only 186 pages long, but I thought that was long enough to tell this unusual thriller. It even included an epilogue, which updated the reader about what happened next to all the characters associated with the story. This I found valuable and rounded of the story very well.
For me the jury is still out on Robert Barnard's crime writing's ability. I enjoyed both the characters he created and the way the story unfolded, I just struggled within the setting they were all in. As a result of this I found a lot of the book slow and even hard going but I'm pleased I persisted, as it was worthwhile in the end.
On balance I would recommend this as a good crime thriller. It could be the fact that I am new to this author's work or the unusual family situation that made me struggle with it. Although there were also elements I really enjoyed such as the wonderful variety of characters and the humour within the story that more than made up for the other shortcomings. I will definitely be trying another from this author very soon as I am intrigued to see more of his work.
Thank you for reading my review.
This review is published on both Ciao and Dooyoo under my user name.
CPTDANIELS March 2010