Blotto, Twinks and the Ex-King's Daughter
by Simon Brett
Review by Gayle Surrette
Felony & Mayhem Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781934609699
Date: 16 February 2011 List Price $14.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Everyone knows that finding a body in the library while you're having a party, especially when the body is one of your guests, is not a good thing. However, when you have lots of money and your mother has a 'title' the police will just declare it not a problem and close the case so as not to inconvenience the house party. Well, in 1918-ish England that was, unfortunately, often the way things worked out. Luckily, Twinks is a female Sherlock Holmes and she's working to figure out who actually killed their guest and left his body in the library.
However, there's a few problems: women aren't expected to do more than smile and look pretty; Blotto, Twinks' brother, is dumb as a rock; and there's a revolution brewing back in the guests' home country. Brett manages to keep the action moving forward with wit, some laugh out loud moments, and some wicked twists to the plot line. Avid mystery readers may also recognize some of the twists before they arrive on the page. Don't worry though because that won't stop you from reading because the wit, humor, not to mention the inside view of the upper class society of the day will keep you entertained until the last page.
The story was entertaining and, I admit, extremely funny in parts. However, after finishing it and thinking about it, what sticks is how far we've come. Twinks is intelligent, very much so. In today's world she could be anything – doctor, lawyer, researcher, scientist, police officer, or a consulting detective. But in this time period, even with all that women did during WWI, women had few option and at the level of society Twinks moves in even fewer options were available to her. So, another caveat is women may find their blood pressure rising as they read about the limitations placed on Twinks.
There's also the attitude of the upper class. I'm not British so I can't speak to the accuracy of the presentation, but in reading books from the Regency period where call was even more important, the point of view of upper class narrators does feel true to the attitude. There's a casual dismissiveness of the servants as if they are simply tools or interchangeable widgets that have no feelings and exist only to serve -- robots of flesh and blood. It's an attitude I'm not comfortable with and as a layer beneath the text it is a bit disturbing. It particularly comes out in Blotto's and his mother's attitudes toward their servants. In this particular tale we are introduced to three of the servants and get to observe their interactions with their employers -- it's some of the most intriguing and witty writing, even while making the reader squirm.
This is the start of a new series and it will be interesting to see what happens next for Twinks and Blotto.