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by Stuart Pawson
Allison & Busby, July 2010
352 pages
19.99 GBP
ISBN: 074900794X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

A new Stuart Pawson novel is like your favourite uncle turning up, telling you corny jokes, whisking you off to the zoo for the afternoon and feeding you your favourite ice cream…

A VERY PRIVATE MURDER is a treat worth waiting for – it's been three years since GRIEF ENCOUNTERS appeared. All the old crew are here, accompanied by a raft of memorable supporting characters who are painted in with Pawson's customary relish.

When the book opens, Charlie is on leave, attempting to beat his overgrown garden into submission before the neighbours turn nasty. He's summoned back to work, though, to deal with a case of vandalism. And it's not just any vandalism . . . Ghislaine Curzon, girlfriend of one of the royal princes, is opening Heckley's new shopping centre – only to be confronted with an obscene word on the commemorative plaque.

The chief constable wants Charlie on the case. Our hero would rather be tracking down a couple of burglars who are armed with a pit-bull terrier, but his social graces are needed to schmooze the great and good. Except, it soon becomes a murder enquiry when Heckley's mayor is found murdered.

You don't read Pawson for nail-destroying tension or rapid action. What he does, and does insanely well, is to present the reader with a cast of characters so realistic that you're convinced you know them from work or from your road or from down the pub. And he's got the relaxed narrative style that looks effortless but for which most writers sweat pints of blood and never actually achieve.

A VERY PRIVATE MURDER has Charlie hob-nobbing with the moneyed set and probing the horse-racing world. Police colleagues Dave, Maggie and Co take more of a back-seat role, but instead we have Ghislaine's rather wonderful young sister Toby, and the mayor's flautist wife amidst a decidedly picaresque cast.

The only bamboozling thing in the book is several places where the text follows on oddly – it isn't clear whether they're meant to be scene breaks or whether anything is missing. It's a minor irritation, though, and certainly won't impair your enjoyment of this treat of a novel.

§ Sharon Wheeler is a UK-based journalist, writer and lecturer.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, November 2010

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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