The seven ages of woman…
Ritchie Good is the most talented male actor in local amateur dramatics, so he’s always in demand. Arrogant and conceited, he has a habit of hitting on every woman he meets which, combined with his put-downs of fellow cast members, ensures his unpopularity. But when he is found hanged on a stage gallows built for the next production of The Devil’s Disciple, the police come to the conclusion that it must have been accidental – a conclusion not shared by friends Jude and Carole, who set out to investigate…
At the beginning I thought I was really going to enjoy this book. The writing flows smoothly and the ‘cosy’ feel of it, set in the slightly unreal world of am-dram, starts out well. However, the further I got into it, the more irritating I began to find it. Firstly, the characterisation, which is incredibly stereotyped, has a major problem in that the author seems unable to decide what ages his characters are. At one moment, we have Carole being ‘hit on’ by a handsome young actor – then we discover she is a retired grandmother. Then we have Hester, post-menopausal we are told, also hit on by a much younger man (maybe there is a shortage of young women in the area?), but married to a man whom we are told is much older than her and yet who is portrayed as, at a guess, mid-fifties. These are just two examples of a recurring confusion throughout the book. A mess, quite frankly, that should have been picked up by the editor, if the author wasn’t aware of it.
But I could possibly have overlooked that. What really made me start frothing at the mouth was the scene where one character is in a nursing home, and a nurse casually reveals details of her illness and treatment to Jude, who is neither a relative nor even a friend of the patient, and has no official standing. Jude, described as a healer and obviously from the description of her healing some kind of Reiki practitioner, undertakes to ‘heal’ the patient without her consent; then, having formed a practitioner/patient relationship, uses that to wheedle information out of her, which she then passes on quite casually to other people. Neither a good nurse nor a principled practitioner (and we are led to believe that Jude is principled) would ever behave in these ways. But we are supposed to see it as not just normal but in some way admirable.
And the end, which I won’t reveal, is so utterly ludicrous that had the book retained any credibility by that point, it would have immediately lost it. Even ‘cosies’ need to have some basis in reality. You will have gathered perhaps that this book does not get my wholehearted recommendation. I can see how Brett’s writing style could be fun, and perhaps his other books are better, but this one has so many problems that I won’t be rushing to read any more of them.
NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Severn House.