After the notorious ‘Middle Street Massacre’ of 1951, when the majority of Brighton’s criminals wiped one another out in a vicious battle as the local police force enjoyed a brief stop en route for an ice cream, Inspector Steine rather enjoys life as a policeman. No criminals, no crime, no stress. He just wishes Sergeant Brunswick would stop insisting that perhaps not every criminal was wiped out that fateful day. So it’s really rather annoying when an ambitious – not to mention irritating – new Constable shows up to work and starts investigating a series of burglaries. And it’s even more annoying when, after Constable Twitten is despatched to the theatre for the night, he sits next to a vicious theatre critic who is promptly shot dead part way through the opening night of a new play. It seems Brighton may be in need of a police force after all…
Now, I will preface this review by saying that I am a huge fan of Lynne Truss – both of her non-fiction works and of her Radio 4 series Inspector Steine. When I saw that the same characters were now available in book form, I was really keen to read.
There are many positives in this but, unfortunately (for me, and anyone else who has heard the series), there is a problem: A Shot in the Dark is largely a re-hash of some of the key points in the first series of the radio show. Even more unfortunately, it seems to suffer in the translation to the page. Its pace to start with is pretty slow and Inspector Steine has mutated from the starring charming imbecile brought to life by the marvellous Michael Fenton Stevens on the radio to a less appealing and relatively minor character.
Ok, moan over – onto the positives! The pace picks up fairly quickly and there is a lot of fun to be had: there are some funny moments, Twitten is adorably irritating, Brunswick actually seems a more substantial character in the book and Mrs Groynes is always good value. The book itself is good and I do think that if I had never heard the radio version I would have enjoyed the reading of it more.
In summary, the storyline and revelations are great, it is amusing and well-written and, providing you don’t know what’s coming, cleverly plotted. Therefore, if the blurb appeals to you, give the book a go and I really hope you enjoy it.
Thank you to NetGalley and Bloomsbury Publishing for the ARC of A Shot in the Dark.