Tuesday, July 10, 2018
A Brush with Death by Ali Carter
Susie Mahl, the narrator, is what I see as a hanger-on. She's an artist whose specialty is painting pet portraits, so she spends time at grand homes all over England as she studies the pets. She's quite comfortable with the lifestyle of the rich upper-class, and depends on referrals. While she's staying with the Earl and Countess of Greengrass, Diana, Lady Greengrass refers Susie to new neighbors, Ben and Antonia Codrington. That meeting leads to a commission for Susie, one that puts her in the right spot when Alexander, the Earl of Greengrass, dies.
Susie's to paint the Codrington's dog, Situp, but she's surprised to find another guest at their house when she arrives. Henry Dunstan-Sherbet is a doctor and a lifelong friend of Ben's. After Situp digs up a skull from the local graveyard, Ben, Henry and Susie head there one Sunday morning to bury it again. They're together when they hear noises, and find Alexander with his pants down outside the church. At seventy-five, Alexander seems a little young for death, but everyone is shocked when the police say he was murdered.
When Susie realizes she's part of a murder investigation, she's thrilled. She sees parallels between investigating a murder and painting a picture. Both call for careful observation. She's convinced she can solve the case with a combination of her obsessive observation and "nosy-parker instincts".
Frankly, Susie Mahl was not my favorite amateur sleuth. At thirty-two, she feels she's all-knowing about the lives of the rich British landowners. Her obsession with her French lingerie seems a little out-of-place. It's only my opinion, but she comes across as too ingratiating.
There's a contemporary setting in A Brush with Death, but its slow pace and detailed descriptions remind me of the Golden Age mysteries. Perhaps that's what Carter was trying to emulate with her debut. It didn't quite work for me.
A Brush with Death by Ali Carter. Point Blank. 2018. ISBN 9781786072764 (paperback), 320p.
FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.