Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Death in Disguise: Caroline Graham

Death in Disguise is the third in the Inspector Barnaby series written by Caroline Graham. I was motivated to re-read this book after I found this lovely paperback edition at the September book sale. I first read it back in 2002, and fortunately did not remember a thing about the story.


The Manor House of Compton Dando has been taken over by a commune called The Lodge of the Golden Windhorse. The residents of this small commune all have different reasons for joining this group of mystics and come from very diverse backgrounds. They offer seminars and classes in New Age mysticism and crafts to support their group. When not one but two of the group's leaders dies within a few months of each other, Inspector Barnaby and Sergeant Troy of Causton CID investigate. The second death is clearly murder, but was the first?

As Inspector Barnaby investigates, he loses patience with the residents of the commune. The residents vary in their devotion to eccentric belief systems, and some just can't communicate without spouting their beliefs. Some of them are sincere and some are not, and it is hard to tell which. Later he comes to regret that he did not take them more seriously and listen to Sergeant Troy's suggestions and suspicions. I like this humanizing of an otherwise close to perfect inspector.

Some reviewers complained that the story takes a while to get going, with too much exposition preceding the murder and the investigation. Inspector Barnaby doesn't show up until  about a third of the way into the book. I like stories structured like this, setting up the characters and the issues and relationships, so it was definitely my cup of tea.

I also watched the TV adaptation of this book. We have watched all of the episodes with John Nettles, and are going back and re-watching the earlier episodes, so this was perfect timing. In the TV episode some of the relationships are switched around, probably to fit the story into a 90-minute episode.

In the book, much of the plot centers around Suhami, formerly known as Sylvia Gamelin, and daughter of Guy Gamelin, a rich and ruthless business man. She is estranged from her parents and would like nothing better than to never see them again. Then they show up at her birthday celebration at the commune, and death ensues. Much of the book is devoted to fleshing out their background and relationships. The book may go too far in that area, but the episode cuts most of that out, making some of the plot less plausible and confusing. Nevertheless, it is an entertaining episode.

One thing I had forgotten about the books was that Sergeant Troy was a much more self-absorbed and chauvinistic person than in the TV series. In the early shows that are adaptations of novels his aversion and insensitivity to homosexual relationships is obvious, but in later TV episodes he mellows. In the books, Troy is married and he doesn't treat his wife too well. He is, however, an adoring father.

I reviewed the second book in the series, Death of a Hollow Man, in September. My review is here.

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Publisher:  Avon, 1994. Orig. pub. 1993.
Length:     368 pages
Format:     Paperback
Series:      Chief Inspector Barnaby, #3
Setting:     UK
Genre:      Police Procedural
Source:     I purchased my copy.

18 comments:

  1. Tracy, had I come across this paperback with this terrific cover, I'd have picked it up without hesitation. I haven't read any of the Barnaby-Troy series but I'd like to know what the grim reaper is up to, though I can guess from your succinct review.

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    1. Prashant, the cover is not terribly representative of the contents of the book, except for the village in the background. Nevertheless, I love it and had to have this copy.

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  2. Tracy - I'm not surprised that cover appealed to you. And the story is, I think, a good one. I'm glad you mentioned Troy, too. I think that in the books more than the show, he does mature and become a little more appealing as the series goes on.

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    1. Margot, now you have motivated to re-read more of these. Except for the first one, I don't remember much about them, so I will still enjoy them.

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  3. As I read this review I was immediately reminded of A Fatal Inversion (1987), a mystery Ruth Rendell wrote under the pseudonym of Barbara Vine. I loved A Fatal Inversion. So I think I'll put Death in Disguise on my reading list.

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    1. Barbara, I cannot remember if I have read A Fatal Inversion. I read some of her Barbara Vine books years ago. It sounds interesting. I will look for it later in 2015.

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    2. Both A Fatal Inversion and Death in Disguise are excellent books, but other than involving a disparate group of people living in a large house in a communal setting, they are not very similar. Rendell/Vine's book is far more serious and downbeat, while Graham's is more satirical. Two very good books, but very different in style, tone, and theme.

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    3. Deb, I usually read only the Wexford books by Rendell, and I agree that the standalone books are much darker and for me, very uncomfortable at times. But every now and then I like to try one of her standalone books too. Maybe one will show up at the big book sale I go to at the end of the year.

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  4. You're doing very well with the covers of this one and the Granger! (and I have ordered a 2nd hand copy of the Granger, though I think not with your excellent cover). This reminds me that I think I have another Graham unread, chosen after you reviewed it - will read that one next....

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    1. Moira, I do hope you enjoy them. I think both have a decent amount of clothing descriptions in them.

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  5. I've never read any of these books as the TV programmes are hardly ever off the telly, I call them marshmallow viewing but there is something compulsive about them. I might read the books now as Troy sounds more interesting.

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    1. Katrina, I do love the series, even though I know what you mean by "marshmallow viewing." We just love the chemistry between the regular cast members. The books are very good reads too. Troy is aggravating and adds an edge to them.

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  6. I have definitely seen the TV version of this - thanks TracyK - sooner or later, I might try the books ...

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    1. Sergio, you really should try one of the books someday. They may be sort of cozy type police procedurals, but they have way more depth than the TV series. I love both the TV series and the books. If you ever do try one, I would recommend the first or second book.

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  7. Like Sergio I've never read the books but I must give them a go. I'm not a massive fan of the series but it makes pleasant enough viewing.

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    1. The books are worth trying, Sarah. The first one is really good, as I remember it from about 10 years ago when I first read them.

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  8. Glad you enjoyed it Tracy, but I'll avoid.

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  9. No surprise there, Col. I will have to read some of the Carolyn Hart books that you liked and compare.

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