Saturday, May 19, 2012

Political Suicide: Robert Barnard

I have been a fan of Robert Barnard for years. He has been writing mysteries for over 35 years and has written over 40 mysteries, plus several non-fiction books. Many of his mysteries, especially the earlier ones, are satirical novels.  Political Suicide takes a look at politics in England in the mid-1980's.

Here are the opening sentences of the book:
''It was a quiet Friday morning in Downing Street. The Prime Minister was stewing over a draft bill to privatize the armed forces, many of the aides and secretaries who normally cluttered the place were already off for the weekend, and in the kitchens the cook was preparing a light lunch of staggering ordinariness.''

James Partridge, Member of Parliament for the Yorkshire district of East Bootham, has apparently committed suicide. In fact, his party and the party in power at the time, the Tories, are very eager for the death to be determined to be suicide, so they can move past that to the election to choose his successor. But there is no clear evidence of suicide, and the case is left open. Inspector Sutcliffe of New Scotland Yard investigates.

Sutcliffe takes the inquiry very seriously, to the extent of using his vacation to extend it. However, the focus of the plot is also on the mechanics of the by-election, the jockeying for position, the opportunism and deceit of the candidates and their supporters. Barnard tells the story with wit and charm.

I was recently thinking that a lot of Robert Barnard's books are like Ruth Rendell's suspense novels, in that the characters are often quirky and/or unattractive, and the ending is often not at all what you expect. The major difference for me is that reading Rendell's novels, other than her Inspector Wexford series, often make me feel very uncomfortable. Thus I have avoided them for years. Whereas Robert Barnard's books are lighter and I always enjoy them. They offer something different, not the standard mystery read (if there is such a thing).

This counts as one of my books for the following challenges:
Mt. TBR Challenge
Read Your Own Books Challenge
A-Z Challenge
Merely Mystery Reading Challenge
Mystery & Suspense Reading Challenge
Spring Reading Challenge

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