Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Fall from Grace: Robert Barnard

This book is the eighth book in a series of mystery novels about Detective Inspector Charlie Peace. He first appears in the fourth book in the Perry Trethowan series, Bodies.  At that point he is not a policeman. Later he gets his own series.

In this book, Charlie has recently moved with his family to Slepton Edge, a village in Yorkshire. He and his wife are getting to know others in the community. At the same time, his wife's father has moved to the same village, an uncomfortable situation for both he and his wife. Her relationship to him is strained, and neither of them like him very much.

Even though the series is in the police procedural sub-genre, this entry is not really a police procedural, focusing more on their family life and relationships, and community relationships.  Charlie and his wife become involved with a murder that takes place in their village, but it is outside of his turf, and he is warned off by the detective in charge. For various reasons, Charlie feels it is important for him to do some investigating, and he tries to do this without stepping on any toes.

Charlie is black and his wife is white; they do run into some prejudices in their interactions with the community. The inter-racial aspects are noted in this mystery, but that is a side issue. The various members of the community are all interesting types, as usual, and provide some humor. Others are very sinister. This is a cozy with an edge.

The last book by Robert Barnard that I read (and reviewed here) is Political Suicide, a satirical look at politics in the 1980's. In A Fall from Grace, one of the secondary characters is involved in politics at the local level, and Barnard pokes some fun at the political process here too.

Barnard's novels often touch on uncomfortable aspects of community life and challenge our expectations. The review at Kirkus Reviews decribes this book as  "an exquisitely troubling portrait of parenting, teaching and the pack mentality."

I enjoyed this book. It does end abruptly; there is a resolution but it is implied, not explicit. It works for me, and unusual endings are usual in Barnard's novels. I have the next two in the series waiting to be read; I just have too many books I want to read. And I want to read another non-series novel by Barnard soon too.

This counts as one of my books for the following challenges:
Mt. TBR Challenge
Read Your Own Books Challenge

A-Z Challenge

Cruisin' Thru the Cozies Challenge

Mystery & Suspense Reading Challenge

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