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Wycliffe and the House of Fear - W.J. Burley

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Genre: Crime / Thriller / Author: W.J. Burley / Edition: New Ed / Mass Market Paperback / 240 Pages / Book is published 2007-06-13 by Orion

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      11.11.2012 11:10
      Very helpful



      Enjoyable Detective story

      ==Synopsis of the book:==

      Detective Superintendent Wycliffe is enjoying a break in Cornwall when he first encounters the Kemp family. Initially he is interested in them because he is staying in a Cottage on their premises in Kellycoryk. They are a family rich in history to the area having lived there for nearly 500 years and although not as rich and powerful as they once were they are still a family with a high standing in the community. Indeed Wycliffe even finds a book in one of the local shops about them and their colourful history.

      This family is not adverse to tragedy as five years previously Roger Kemp's first wife Julia was lost overboard while out of their yacht with Roger and Clare Jordan a family friend. The tragic accident had a profound effect on the family, but despite this Roger married again Bridget and life continued in their run-down and neglected family home. Now Bridget has gone missing and Wycliffe and his team find themselves investigating this unusual family to find the truth about Kellycoryk and it's famous first family.

      ==My thought on this novel:==

      I thought this was a good and very interesting Detective mystery. Usually I will read a book and then see the television equivalent of it if there is one, but on this occasion I was aware of the television programme a long time before the books. So in a sense I had a good idea before I read the book of the type of investigation Wycliffe would conduct and a little about the type of character he was. This I think gave me an advantage and meant when I first saw this novel in the charity shop that I had a fair idea that I would if it was similar to the television series enjoy it.

      The author of the Wycliffe stories W.J. Burley is not an author I was prior to reading this book familiar with. Before he starting writing he was a teacher, he first created his most famous character in 1966. In a long life he died in 2002 at the age of 88. In total he wrote 28 books of which 22 were in Wycliffe series. The book I am reviewing was one of his last having been written in 1995. For me having read my first book by this author I would describe them as a good old fashioned Detective story in which the clues are put together a little like the Agatha Christie crime stories that preceded them.

      When I spotted this book I was immediately interested because of the title of it. I was wondering what the author meant by this and what he had in store for the reader. So I checked out the summary of the story of the reverse of the book. This was quite short but it told of Wycliffe being on holiday and by chance coming across the Kemp family. It told a little about them and certainly made me want to know more about this dysfunctional family and so on that basis I purchased it.

      The mystery in this book begins in the prologue. It is a newspaper story from five years before telling of the tragic death of Julie Kemp in a freak accident on the family yacht. This was a good start as it certainly grabbed my interest and I wanted to know more about the background to this as the piece only provided the facts not the detail behind it, or indeed if there was any investigation by the Police or if there was an question of doubt behind what had happened.

      When the story started I was intrigued by this once wealthy family now struggling to make ends meet. They seemed to have problems communicating with each other and none of them appeared happy or content with their lives. I wondered what skeleton's where in their cupboards as they all seemed subdued and preferred their own company to each others. As a result I found I was totally fascinated by them and added to this I liked Wycliffe's initial innocent interest in the family and their long history.

      However I suppose if I have a criticism at this stage it would be that it was a bit obvious that the first Mrs Kemp's death had not been fully investigated and so when the second Mrs Kemp disappeared Wycliffe were bound to find more than they bargained for. That said I did enjoy the way his team started trying to find the truth and getting precious little help from the Kemp family in this task. With excellent descriptions of the beautiful Cornish coastline helping the reader feel the place and the mystery around the Kemp's home.

      I enjoyed the way the story developed. The way Wycliffe team all worked together to try and find the solution. Although I did feel the story would have benefited form an additional character or two , this would have created more mystery as there seemed a shortage of suspects for my liking. Although this was to some extent made up for by the excellent use of suspense the author employed throughout the story. With some good and unexpected twists along the way that added to the quality of the story and always kept me on my toes and wondering what the truth actually was.

      These days I quite often judge a mystery by the fact did I manage to solve it. It may not be the best way but for an experienced reader of crime it works for me. In this one I did not have a clue to the answers, the who and the why until it was all explained at the very end. Yes I would have liked one last twist at the end of the book but this did not happen and we were left with a practical conclusion as opposed by an exciting one. Because I think the author could have expanded this and added more spice but plumbed for a shorter more controlled ending to a good story.

      In my experiences it is rare to find an investigating conducted by a character such as Detective Superintendent Wycliffe. By this I mean it is such a change to have someone who is liked and respected by everyone he comes into conduct with. He has a settled and happy family life and appears to enjoy the job he does, for me this makes him practically unique. As in some crime stories I find the Detectives background as interesting and colourful as the investigation they are dealing with. As a result I really liked Wycliffe and found his quick and intelligent mind good and while I struggled to find too much common ground with him I did find I too respected him and wanted him to solve this mystery.

      The stories length was about right to tell a well thought out and interesting Detective story. I certainly felt I needed to find the truth and I enjoyed the way the author told his yarn. And the story for me was nothing radically different from what I had read and enjoyed previously. I did appreciate the depth within the story and the character of the investigating officer, that made him very different from his counterparts. Based on this I can see why these stories have been so successfully transferred to television and also based on this I will be reading another in this excellent series very soon.


      For me this was a really good Crime story and one I would recommend to all crime fans. I think I was helped in my first experience of this writers work by knowing the Wycliffe series from the television series. However I feel there was quality and depth within this story that would appeal to all readers whether they have seen them on television or not. My only slight complaint was I felt the story needed one or two additional characters or suspects but regardless I thougherly enjoyed this book.

      ==Other information:==

      Paperback version:
      Pages: 240
      Price: 5.24 New at Amazon
      Publisher: Orion
      ISBN-10: 0752881442
      ISBN-13: 978-0752881447
      Year first published: 1995
      More about the author: www.wjburley.com

      Thanks for reading my review.

      This review is published on both Ciao and Dooyoo under my user name

      © CPTDANIELS November 2012.


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