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The hanging in the hotel is the fifth novel in the Fethering murder mystery series written by English author Simon Brett. The novels are set in the fictional South coast town of Fethering, which is supposed to be 8 miles away from Brighton. The books feature two main characters neighbours Carole Seddon and Jude, they are of a similar age but are very different characters. Carole is more uptight and Jude more open, Jude has a mysterious background and Carole a very traditional retired ex-civil servant. However, they work well together and solve murders which the police don't seem capable of doing.
The Hanging in the Hotel
The previous novels in the series have all featured towns and villages in the fictional Fethering area but in this novel nearly all the action takes place in the posh hotel Hopwicke Country House Hotel, this hotel is being run by one of Judes old friends a former fashion model called Suzy. Suzy is beautiful and divorced from a Simon Cowell style ex-rocker called Rick. Rick is fronting a show called pop crop which looking for the next big thing.
However, the hanging part of the title doesn't involve any chicanery around a forced fake pop TV programme but the antics of the very pompous Pillars of Sussex group. The group are full of wealthy men in their fifties onwards and have booked the hotel for their annual get together.
Everything goes according to plan, Jude has been asked by Suzy to help with the catering and just before going to bed she finds one of the Pillars invited guest failing to get into his room. Jude helps him in and in a drunken haze tells Jude that the future is going to be good. The next morning brings a shock when the youngman is found dead apparently hanged by his own hand in his hotel room. Police seem happy with suicide but Jude suspects foul deeds.
Thats the premise of the novel and the two then go off and investigate the very correct and pompous Pillars of Sussex, finding without too many surprises that the men in the group have many secrets. There are of course plenty of chances for the author to poke fun at the clattering middle class approach to betterment and making money through sharp business practices.
This was however the first novel in the series where I felt a bit disappointed, the outcome is a bit hard to guess and there isn't the usual high level of humour pointing at the English middle class. There feels in this novel more of an axe to grind than a bit of light fun.
I still enjoyed the novel and hope the bext returns to the high standards we read in the first few Fethering novels.
After some time I've finally returned to my favourite type of fiction. That being your classic murder mystery novel. Whilst you can't get any better than a bit of Agatha Christie, Simon Brett does have a vast amount of crime fiction under his belt. Well over 20 books, then there's the plays he's scripted and his collection of childrens stories as well. This is the third book of his which I have read and so far I can see as to why he is quite popular.
When Jude helps out her friend, ex-superstar model Suzy Longthorne, in her hotel at a private function for male society The Pillars of Sussex things don't go according to plan. Despite a young solicitor being happy and elated after talking to her, the next morning he is found hanging from his four poster bed.
Everybody else is certain that this was a definate suicide, despite the fact that a seemingly threatening note has disappeared which had been found in the young mans room. It's down to Jude to try and persuade people that this has to be murder and with the help of an old friend they set out trying to investigate what actually happened. Not that anybody will listen as it becomes increasingly coincidental that everybody seems to have a cast iron alibi and are able to back up other peoples stories.
Whilst Judes investigative partner Carole is doing her best to help out it's clear that she has a slight resentive edge when it comes to all things concerning Suzy Longthorne. After all, she is more or less everything that Carole is not. In her own celebrity status mind it's not as if the former beauty queen is all that bothered. Occassionally it can get a bit tiresome when it comes to how cagey she is about revealing information. It's sort of like we have to be reminded that she is probably hiding something.
The Pillars of Sussex are an odd mix. You have the slightly slimey yet creepy Barry Stillwell who desperately wants to have an affair with Carole. The very outspoken Bob Hartson, a drunk and a depressive. All of which seem to be under somebody elses power and have no way of breaking free of this controller.
In some ways this novel does have a feel of Ms Marple about it. The ladies doing the investigating are both middle aged, interfering where they are not wanted and in no way are they going to back off. It also has that same sense of where you are being led down a route where it can only possibly be one person and then you find out you've been taking into the wrong direction.
I haven't found many murder mysteries which can do this, usually there are hints or obvious clues which make you suspect the culprit earlier on.
I do have a slight problem though. I am a little unsure as to the reason behind the deaths. There is also a lot of characters involved and sometimes I found myself a little bit lost as to who they were and what part they played.
Overall I really enjoyed this book. It was easy to read and although it wasn't exactly mind boggingly brilliant it filled in some time and kept me occuppied for a bit. The actual investigating bit can be on the slow side occassionally and in some cases you end up figuring it out before the characters do.
If you like your crime novels but don't want something too complex then this is probably something you might like to try. You can get it for £3.97 from Amazon brand new and in some shops for £6.99
Simon Bretts name is familiar to me as the author of the bestselling How to Be a Little Sod, which I thoroughly enjoyed, so when I found out that he also wrote crime fiction, I was intrigued. It didnt take me all that long to get through the book, but every minute was great fun. As a piece of literature, it doesnt really show up on the radar, but as entertainment, it deserves full marks.
Suzy Longthorne, former model, now runs an exclusive country house hotel in Sussex. Short of staff, she calls in her long-term friend, Jude to help out with the waitressing for an important meeting of the Pillars of Sussex, a sort of Masonic society. During the evening, much drinking takes place, so no-one is surprised when one of the guests, a solicitor called Nigel Ackford doesnt turn up for breakfast the next morning. When Jude finally goes to wake him up, she is horrified to find that he has apparently hung himself.
Despite everyones protests to the contrary, Jude, who was apparently the last person to see Nigel alive, is convinced that he was murdered. She calls in her friend and neighbour, Carole, also a middle-aged lady, to help out with the investigation. They soon find themselves embroiled in the machinations of a male-only society, where everyone seems to be lying. Then another murder occurs. Can Jude and Carole get to the bottom of the accidental deaths before another one occurs?
This book is part of a series called the Fethering Mysteries, and as with many series, there is very little character development in this particular book, with the author presuming that the reader is already familiar with the main characters, Jude and Carole. We do find out that Jude is a former model and television star and that Carole has retired from the Home Office, but that is about all, apart from the fact that the pair of them are busybodies who have got nothing better to do than poke their noses in where they are not wanted! This didnt in any way detract from my enjoyment of the book though; the main focus of the book was the plot rather than the characters.
Apart from writing How to Be a Little Sod, Simon Brett is also the author of the television and radio series After Henry and a novel called A Shock to the System, which was made into a film starring Michael Caine. However, most of his published novels are crime fiction, including this series and two others the Mrs Pargeter novels and the Charles Paris series.
This book is very simply written, with the occasional big word thrown in just to remind us that Simon Brett isnt stupid. It certainly wouldnt win any literature prizes, but it read very well and as a piece of light reading, was perfect. The chapters were also very short, which was very convenient for reading on public transport.
The feel of the book is very Agatha Christie-like, in that it is extremely English, concentrating on the happenings in a small village and that the main characters are Miss Marple-type crime fighters. I cant see it being as well-known as Agatha Christies work in fifty years time, but it certainly made a very pleasant read. Perhaps because I have spent a long time out of the country, Ive always enjoyed books that are quintessentially English and this is certainly one of them.
The development of the plot is very well balanced throughout the book, with each chapter revealing another piece of the plot to keep the reader interested. As proof that it did keep me interested, I finished the book in about two hours.
If youre looking for something to challenge you, then this wont appeal. It is very light-hearted, perfect for a holiday read or following something more heavy-going (I read it after reading Truman Capotes In Cold Blood).
I recommend this book for fans of crime fiction in particular, especially if you are looking for some easy reading. The book is available from play.com for £5.49. Published by Pan Books, it has 375 pages (with quite large type). ISBN: 0-330-49082-6