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Tuesday 4 June 2013

Showstoppers by Helen Smith

The book I read before Helen's turned out, regrettably, to be a very good cure for insomnia, so I was very ready to pick up a light-hearted, seventy-five page, mystery novella and the second in the Emily Castles series to boot! (See Three Sisters.)

It didn’t disappoint. In this, Emily finds herself—just a little reluctantly—solving the mystery of who is sending her neighbour, Victoria, who runs a drama school (Showstoppers), some unpleasant letters regarding a video she made with a former boyfriend. (Nothing smutty, don’t worry.) Victoria has been harbouring a guilty secret about the video and frets that the author of the poison-pen letters will use it in some way against her. It’s not long before other members in Emily's neighbourhood become involved in solving not just the mystery of who is sending the letters, but…a murder too.

I felt the first Emily Castles mystery, Three Sisters, lacked some character detail, but as there are some recurring (besides Emily) characters (wonderfully eccentric and colourful ones!), we discover a little more about them and their personalities. I’ve come to like learning about the characters novella by novella! This 'drip-feed' process works rather well here. 

I like a book that doesn’t take itself too seriously. And this one doesn’t. I have to say that it's not really a sophisticated Poirot or Miss Marple mystery. It’s a little bit daft but tremendous fun: it’s easy and effortless to read, the characters are diverse, entertaining, and most are very likeable. (I say 'most' because, of course, murderers aren't really supposed to be likeable, are they?) 

Forty-five minutes in the company of Ms Helen Smith/Emily Castles very well spent.

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