And so the day dawns on which Edinburgh Book Festival starts for me. Unusually I missed the first week, but then I was rather distracted! i will, however, be making up for lost time during week two. Whatever I’m expecting I can assure you it will be nothing like the festival of Mark McCrum’s invention (or I do hope not).
The small fictional literary festival at Mold-on-Wold comes complete with its own programme, and sparks fly from the outset. Bryce Peabody, a savage literary critic, has just decimated Dan Dickson’s latest novel. Not content with that he decides to attend Dickson’s event and call him to task during the Q&A. Such a nice man. Later it becomes apparent that this is the warm-up for his own event the following day, when he’s going to dish some dirt that will set off real fireworks …..
Is it such a surprise that he is found dead in his bed, before he can do so?
Enter Francis Meadowes, author of the crime series featuring George Brathwaite, an amateur sleuth. Meadowes, in the right place at the right time, finds himself investigating Peabody’s death, using his fictional alter-ego’s methods. It all gets rather meta, in the most delicious way.
This isn’t some cozy little murder mystery, the sort I might write for my clever-clogs detective, George Brathwaite, for the amusement of a bunch of readers, who might freak out if they saw a road accident, let alone a murder. Actual people are dying here.
Of course, everyone has a motive for wanting Peabody dead: authors he has savaged, ex-partners he has betrayed, the ex-partner of his current amour. There are so many grudges against him, it’s hard to keep count.
While Peabody may be a vitriolic man, is there any real poison in McCrum’s pen? I’m not sure. McCrum is an established journalist, ghost writer and non-fiction author who has chosen to self-publish his first novel. Economics seems the motivating force behind that decision. As for the literary luvvies with which the novel is populated, they are pretty ghastly (and probably very recognisable) literary types. The audience doesn’t escape the satire either. However, there does appear to be a particular bite in the portrayal of the festival director ….
In the end though, despite Meadowes’s protestations against coziness, there is a very Agatha feel to the mystery: it’s set in the countryside, everyone has a motive, and some of it is a bit implausible, Neither is the real perpetrator that difficult to spot. Like all good Agatha’s the climax is a set piece.
This was not the way Francis had planned it – or wanted it. Brathwaite would have hated a set-up like this – as near as dammit to the traditional ‘group denouement’ of the Golden Age.
Well, if the fictional detective wasn’t happy, I was. I enjoyed the setup, the satire and the meta … And now I’m really in the mood to enjoy the world’s greatest literary festival, where none of these backroom petty rivalries exist … do they?
© Lizzy’s Literary Life (2007-2014)