Saturday, October 16, 2021

#1976Club: A Little Local Murder

Robert Barnard (1936 – 2013) was a British author who published mysteries from 1974 through 2012. He wrote over 40 novels and I have read about half of them. A Little Local Murder was his second novel. I selected it for the 1976 Club because I want to compare it to books he wrote after 2000. 

From the Pan Macmillan website, here is a description for a 2016 reprint of A Little Local Murder:

The news that Radio Broadwich is to make a documentary on Twytching for broadcast in America spreads through the small village like wildfire. Mrs Deborah Withens, Twytching's resident doyenne and arbiter of good taste, takes it upon herself to control the presentation of her 'county town' and assumes responsibility for picking those that will take part, provoking fierce rivalry amongst the villagers.

One resident who is reticent to participate in the fuss is Inspector George Parrish . . . until the murder of the first villager chosen, and a rash of poison pen letters uncovering secrets Twytching's leading citizens had fervently hoped were buried, force him to get involved. 


Mrs. Withins, the snobby wife of the Council Chairman, is determined that Twytching should be considered a town, not a village, but this is the quintessential village mystery. The village is filled with characters from a Midsomer Murders episode – gossips, a dotty vicar, and my favorite, a snarky supercilious school teacher. And this book was written well before Caroline Graham's books or the TV show. (Note: I do love Midsomer Murders; we are rewatching the entire series for the third time.) 

My favorite characters in this story are the policemen in the village – Inspector Parrish, Sergeant Stephen Feathers, and Sergeant Betty Underwood. That may be because the reader gets more insight into those characters, especially Inspector Parrish. None of them have a lot of experience with murder cases and they make a few mistakes along the way, but Inspector Parrish has a good handle on the case and the people he is dealing with. The process of tracking down those who received the poison pen letters and their connection to the murder was quite entertaining.

Barnard has written many different kinds of standalone mysteries. Some are satires and more humorous and light; some are serious and dark. Often the characters are quirky and somewhat unsympathetic, as in this book. But almost always the ending is a complete surprise. And this one has a fantastic ending, very unexpected and chilling.

Barnard also wrote two mystery series, both police procedurals. I have enjoyed books from both of those series.


Thanks to Simon at Stuck in a Book and Karen at Kaggsy's Bookish Ramblings for hosting the 1976 Club this week.




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Publisher:   Charles Scribner's Sons, 1983 (orig. publ. 1976)
Length:      190 pages
Format:      Hardcover
Setting:      UK, a small village
Genre:        Mystery
Source:      I purchased my copy.



22 comments:

Cath said...

Glad you've had fun with the 1976 Book Club challenge. I've read a couple by Robert Barnard and enjoyed them a lot, Fete Fatale was one if memory serves.

Margot Kinberg said...

I've really liked the Barnard I've read, Tracy, so I'm sure I'd enjoy this one. And I agree that his work is varied, and always manages to be unexpected in a way, if that makes sense.

Mary R. said...

I haven't read any of this author's books, though he wrote the introductions to the reissue of the Josephine Tey novels which I did read. I have requested this from the library and am excited to check out a new writer. A book that reminded you of Midsomer Murders deserves a read!

Rick Robinson said...

I’m in awe of your reading and reviews! I feel like I’m trudging along while you sprint, though I know it’s not a race. Though I’m pretty sure I’ve read some Barnard, I can’t name which. I like that cover.

TracyK said...

Cath, I have enjoyed all three books I read for the 1976 Club. You never know whether that will happen. Now I am eager to know what the next year is, so I can start my planning.

Reading this book by Barnard has made me want to read more of his books. That always happens. Fete Fatale would be perfect but it is buried somewhere in the garage. I have been going through some of those boxes ... maybe I will find it.

TracyK said...

That is why I love his books, Margot, you never know what to expect. The police procedural books he wrote are not so much that way, although the first one, Death by Sheer Torture, was pretty surprising.

TracyK said...

Mary, I hope you like A Little Local Murder when you try it. Barnard's books have always entertained me.

TracyK said...

Rick, I like this cover too. I don't know why I waited so long to read the book. Getting out three reviews in one week was a bit of a push for me, I am too much of a perfectionist. I will relax the rest of the month. And read some short stories, I hope.

Sam Sattler said...

I haven't thought of Robert Barnard in a long time. I see that I read two of his books in the early nineties: Out of the Blackout and A city of Strangers. I can't honestly say that I remember much about either of them, but that explains why his name was so familiar to me when I saw your post. Really enjoying the way this challenge results in so many "old names" popping up.

Katrina said...

I haven't read anything by Barnard, but now I really want to, thanks.

TracyK said...

Sam, I read a lot of books by Barnard in the early 2000s. I read eight of his books in 2003 (one was Out of the Blackout) and seven books in 2004. I don't think I have ever read A City of Strangers, although I have had a copy a long time. There are so many books of his I still want to read.

TracyK said...

Katrina, I hope you do read something by Barnard some day, he is an author worth trying.

col2910 said...

Barnard (who I keep confusing with Robert Goddard) is someone I have on a list of authors I ought to read (Goddard as well), but haven't got around to. I do have something from both on the order.

TracyK said...

Col, I thought I had not read anything by Goddard but I find that I did read a historical fiction / espionage book of his. Set around WWI. It was pretty good.

I have a few others on the TBR that I would like to try.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Always a fan of his books.

TracyK said...

Patti, it had been about 6 years since I had read any of his books. I need to read more of his books that I have unread.

kaggsysbookishramblings said...

Sounds grand - Barnard is a new name to me, but I'll definitely keep a look out for him. Thanks so much for taking part in the club - look forward to seeing you in 6 months for 1954! :D

TracyK said...

Kaggsy, I have already started planning what I want to read for 1954 from my TBR pile. That would be enough but I also see good titles that I don't have copies of.

Simon T (StuckinaBook) said...

I haven't read of Barnard, and sounds like I'm missing someone not just good but prolific! And what a great cover. Thanks for joining the club!

Emma at Words And Peace / France Book Tours said...

Thanks, I was not familiar with this author. Here is what I read for this club: https://wordsandpeace.com/2021/10/12/my-top-10-books-for-the-1976-club/

TracyK said...

Simon, this must be the third time that I read books for the various year clubs. I did 1956 and 1936 and 1976. All fun.

I wish I could recommend a Barnard. They are all mysteries but all different kinds of books (except the series are much the same within the series). But I can say that you should try something by him.

TracyK said...


Thanks, Emma, I have learned about a lot of new authors doing this club too. At your post, which I visited a few days back, I learned about A River Runs Through it, which I never would have thought of reading, and was reminded of the Mrs. Pollifax series, which I have read several books from and would like to re-read.