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The beach can be the perfect place for people to visit. For a family it is ideal to get the kids running around whilst the adults can relax. For the young couple there are plenty of bars to visit and sun to enjoy. And for the insane there is always the fair. No matter who you are, if the sun is in the sky you should have a great day. Even in the off season the beach can be a nice place to visit. The deserted stretches are a perfect place to walk the dog and the remaining arcades are nearly all offering cheap deals on the latest games! However, the winter months may also wash up some surprises with the increased wind and rain. A stronger current can drag the sea floor and deposit all manner of curios and oddities onto the beach. Like a corpse perhaps?
Early retirement and a divorce were not on Carole's mind as she reached her mid 50s, but this is exactly what happened to her. With her newly found independence she decided to buy a cottage in the sleepy village of Fethering and take to walking her dog. Her tranquillity is shattered one morning when she discovers a body on the beach only for it to be gone by the time she returns with the police. Carole is adamant that she is not going doolally so with the aid of her new neighbour, the flighty Jude, she decides to investigate the dark underbelly of a seemingly perfect English village.
'Body on the Beach' marked the debut of Simon Brett's 'Fethering Mysteries' which follow Carole and Jude through a series of misadventures as they investigate murders in Fethering and the surrounding area. Having read some of them already, out of order, I have found that they struggle to be believable. Would two older ladies really be able to glean a confession out of someone just through idle chitchat and the grape vine? In many of the later books Brett is seemingly forced to drag the narrative forwards by having a suspect/witness reveal far more to Carole or Jude than feels natural. It may seem strange when Agatha Christie wrote Miss Marple in a similar manner, but Christie was almost always able to make it seem more natural.
What sets 'Body' apart from the later books is that Brett has yet to fall into these later traps as the book flows in a natural and realistic way. Over one story you can believe that the people of Fethering are a little naïve and open to revealing more of themselves than they wanted. There is also the use of a witness in this book that ties things together and you can believe that they exist. Throw in a decent enough mystery in of itself and you have a book that reads well.
Another criticism I have of the series is the relationship of the two lead characters. They are chalk and cheese; not in the opposites attract manner. There seems little reason that these two people would want to hang out together and it becomes increasingly strange as the books go on. However, once more 'Body' does not suffer from this issue as the staid relationship they have is perfect for two people who do not know each other well. Brett gives the reader little glimpses into the minds of each woman and what they feel about the other. It all seems very truthful this early on in the series, but as time progresses they do not appear to be in any more ease. Normally a fractured relationship would not prove troublesome in a book, and perhaps even encouraged, but when you are investigating murder together, it pays to be close.
'Body on the Beach' is the first, and from what I have read, the best of the Fethering books. Brett has created a template for this series and in Book 1 it all makes sense. The idol gossip seems to make sense and there is no reverting to the coincidences that mask the cracks in later books. Despite being arguably the best in the series, this does not make it a must read. The characters are only semi interesting and the mystery is effective, but not a thrill ride. As a piece of gentle whimsy that won't scare the more fragile of crime readers then 'Body on the Beach' is more than a passable read - for everyone else it's a bit mediocre.
Author: Simon Brett
Price: amazon uk - £5.49
play.com - £5.49
The body on the beach is a murder mystery by Simon Brett. Simon Brett is a writer with a reputation for writing murder mysteries poking fun at the British class culture and this novel is very much in this vein.
The body on the beach is the first novel in a new set of novels called The Fethering mysteries set in the fictional south coast town of Fethering.
Fethering is a fictional south coast town nearby to the real Brighton; it has an elderly population but also has a certain element of new and therefore undesirable council estates. So we have a largely well off area in and around the river Fether and looking onto the English Channel and a less desirable area which are a mile or two inland.
The book has two main characters Carole and Jude; they are new neighbours as the book begins with Jude moving in next door to Carole. Carole is in her fifties, divorced, walks a dog and tries her best not to be noticed. She is a bit introverted and would never consider going to the pub on a whim or do anything without due consideration beforehand. She is retired from some kind of high powered Home Office position, of which is only alluded and not specified. She on one of her early morning walks finds a body of a middle aged man on the beach. She returns home and informs the police; the police turn up at her house a few hours later and inform her that they failed to find the body!!!
Jude is the other main character, she is always and only called Jude and is a bit mysterious, she's also in her fifties but more independently minded than Carole. She acts as the catalysis taking Carole out of herself imposed isolation and into the real world. She's a wine drinker, loves the attention of men and likes going to the pub, in short she's the exact opposite of Carole.
The book begins in earnest when Carole tells Jude about the body, the disappearance, the police not believing her and the mysterious appearance at her door from a gun wielding middle aged women. The pair appear to be totally different but decide to work together to try and work out who the dead man was, why he was moved and who was his presumed murderer.
So we are soon placed in the world of a small seaside town filled with bitter and angry older residents who hate the young and slightly dodgy members of the British society. This play between the socially inhibited middle classes and the more open but less morally sound working class is a constant in Simon Brett's novels.
The book soon introduces our two heroines and we meet them mostly from a first person view by Carole but occasionally the scene is told by Jude. The precise reason for this isn't clear but the book doesn't jump between the two too much, Carole is the dominant commentator and we get to know her far more than Jude. Indeed, Jude is kept deliberately mysterious and vague, making a mystery of one of the main characters, this means that one of the characters is very open, slightly dull and very dependable and the other more enigmatic and closed. Each has skills, Carole is more logical and Jude more open to how people react in given situations.
In truth the murder mystery isn't too hard and the end of the book is fairly easy to predict quite early into the novel but the true joy is how the two women of similar age have totally different views on the world. This for the reader was a great pleasure and Simon Brett has a great skill at creating environments where the British feel uncomfortable, he places his characters in terms of being awkward in what they meet and what they have to do.
This is the first in this series of novels and I already have the second to read, enjoy and review.
I often get ideas for books to read from Ciao and Dooyoo. I enjoy reading book reviews and several times, I have gone on to read and enjoy the book reviewed. On the latest occasion, it was a review by sunmeilan of a Simon Brett novel. It sounded a really good read, so I found out which was the first one in the series The Body on the Beach and borrowed it from the library.
Simon Brett writes several different kinds of books, including three series The Fethering Mysteries, the Mrs. Pargeter novels and the Charles Paris novels. The Body on the Beach is the first book in The Fethering Mysteries series. As you would correctly deduce, these are mysteries which take place in the fictional place of Fethering, which is on the South Coast of England.
The novels are very English and I loved this book for it. The characters definitely reminded me of people I knew or had met, while managing not to fall into stereotypical caricatures. You laugh at their small-town mentality or their barely-disguised prejudices or their immovable daily routines but these make the characters real and endearing.
The two stars of the piece are two women and I was impressed by how well the male author wrote these two. I read lots of books, but about 80% of them are written by female authors and I can only think of two male authors I count amongst my favourites (Terry Pratchett and Ian Rankin), but Simon Brett won me over with this novel and particularly the characters of Jude (Just Jude) and Carole Seddon.
Carole is the first Fethering resident we meet. She comes across as pretty ordinary in many ways. Shes in her fifties, is divorced and lives alone with her dog Gulliver, who she walks on the beach near her house. Shes very conservative, follows the local rules of social niceties to the letter and wouldnt be seen dead going into the local pub by herself.
Jude is a new resident, having just moved into the house next door. Shes a breath of fresh air for Fethering. Shes a bit different, shes fun, easy to get on with and friendly. Shes a shock to the Fethering residents, who even find it hard to say her name without invisible quotation marks turning up in their intonation.
During one of Caroles dog walks, she comes across a corpse on the sand - that of a middle-aged man she doesnt recognise. She goes home and reports the find to the police, but by the time they get there, the body has disappeared. The police seem to regard Carole as a rather delusional woman and treat her report with a level of skepticism which Carole finds insulting. She sets out to prove she really did see a body after all.
She is helped in this mission by the new arrival Jude. They become quite an efficient partnership, their different personalities complementing each other perfectly. While Carole is rather polite and reserved, Jude has a great go-getting attitude and pushes Carole to let go somewhat. The result is that not only do they discover a whole lot about the corpse, but also about themselves and the other residents of Fethering.
While on the surface, Fethering is very middle class, rather set in its ways and prim and proper, the reality is much different. Even the most upstanding members of society seem to have something to hide. As Jude and Carole nosey round, they find out plenty of things about many of the locals and Fethering becomes much more transparent, more realistic and, of course, as they learn things, so do we as we are reading it.
I enjoy thrillers and crime books, but this novel is worlds away from those of Martina Cole and Minette Walters two of my favourite authors. The Fethering Mysteries are much gentler, with less violence, bad language and adult themes. Simon Bretts The Body on the Beach reminded me more of a Barbara Pym novel for its social comment and witty observations or even a modern-day Jane Austen.
I havent really got anything bad to say about this book I loved it! The characters are wonderful, its a clever and witty book and the plot is interesting too, with enough twists to hold your attention.
I was thrilled to find this, as I now want to read all the other books he has written and its always exciting to find a new author. I found out my mother-in-law is a big Simon Brett fan and she has told me all his three series of books are very different to each other, which is also a good thing. I have several books on the go at once and have been assured I could easily read his different series at the same time and not get them confused. Ill have to raid the library and do some more borrowing soon. I need more Brett books!
9 out of 10 highly recommended
The Body on the Beach by Simon Brett
Paperback cover price £6.99
Simon Brett is probably best known for his book entitled How to Be a Little Sod, which has been televised starring Rik Mayall. He is, however, also a prolific writer of crime novels and has written two series, one featuring Mrs Pargeter, and the other, the Fethering mysteries. This book is the first in the series of the Fethering mysteries. I have previously read another in the series and so knew what to expect a light, somewhat fluffy read that is nevertheless highly entertaining.
Carole Seddon, who has lived in Fethering since her early retirement from the Home Office a while before, is horrified to find the body of a dead man on the beach while walking her dog one morning. What is worse is that she sees the injuries he has received and knows he must have been murdered. However, when she reports the murder to the police and they go to check on the body, they discover it has disappeared and thinks that Carole is an attention-seeking busybody.
Enter Jude, Caroles new next-door neighbour, who is the only one that believes Caroles story. Together they decide to investigate the crime without the help of the police. They are spurred on when another body is discovered on the beach this time the suicide of a young boy who may have been witness to the original murder. Can Carole and Jude prove that the original body wasnt a figment of Caroles imagination?
It makes a pleasant change to read crime fiction that isnt a police procedural, with the hero a mixed up policeman with a penchant for heavy drinking and generally being miserable. Carole is a middle-aged lady who likes to keep herself to herself. She is divorced and has a son whom she rarely sees and has few friends. However, her time working for the Home Office have left her with an analytical mind ideal for solving mysteries. She does have a tendency to rub people up the wrong way, which is where Jude, who is socially much more skilled. I liked Carole as a character. I found myself caring for her, which is more than can be said for some of the miserable detectives that are about at the moment.
Jude is the perfect partner for Carole. Slightly ditzy and very laid back (we dont even find out her surname because she doesnt think that it is important to give it away), she is not the sort of person that Fethering would usually welcome into its bosom she is just that bit too OTT for the calm exterior that most Fethering residents show and approve of. However, compared to Carole, she has the knack of being polite and encouraging confidences. Jude is a realistic character, perhaps strange considering the writer is a man, and again is one for which I felt a lot of sympathy.
Some of the other characters, particularly the older women and criminals that Carole and Jude come across during the course of the book, are highly exaggerated caricatures of reality. However, bearing in mind the lightness of the read, it didnt alter my enjoyment of the book in any way.
This book is perfect if you like your crime fiction light, fluffy and not too gory. I read it very quickly, in just a day, and found myself sitting up late one night to finish it. There is nothing in it that challenges the brains in particular, but it did make me smile on occasion and I went to sleep after reading it feeling very relaxed.
There are some points where, as in a lot of crime fiction, the two heroines jump to conclusions that were nothing short of a miracle. However, in a book that is not supposed to be deadly serious, I think this is permitted.
The language used is simple, no literary prizes here, but it flows well and drew me quickly into the story, which is really all I ask for. The chapters were nice and short, which I liked. I recommend this book particularly for reading on a long journey or when your concentration is not quite at a premium.
The book can be bought from play.com for £5.59. Published by Pan, it has 352 pages. ISBN: 0330376969