A fabulous permanent holiday experience, an enjoyable varied job, and a guinea pig with attitude, Tarah has it all. Moving on a whim from a boring office job in Britain to an uncertain future in Fuerteventura, she makes a change which risks everything in this unusual and very down to earth mystery of a holiday resort. Waters’ first book, a “Mr Bob Murder Mystery” , “A Guinea Pig Cozy Crime Investigation”, is a lively and deceptively insightful book of what happens on a holiday island when secrets and lies emerge. Tarah is an honest and resourceful lead character of a novel which catches some of the challenges of life as she narrates a story of good observation which catches some of the essence of what life is really like for someone who runs a holiday resort. Funny, fascinating and well expressed, this is a book which is essentially a light read with poignant moments. I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book with its unusual theme.
At the beginning of the novel, Tarah is working in an office which is punishingly boring and petty. Realising “I don’t know what I’m doing. I want to escape. I want a different life”, she opts for the unknown island of Fuerteventura for her flight to a new life. Arriving to find her accommodation is a very basic dilapidated shack amongst some holiday cottages, she finds some free furniture and paint left overs from upgrading locals and so impresses her landlord that he offers her a job doing the day to day running of the resort, sorting out the minor problems of holidaymakers. Despite the friendly happy people who are enjoying their holidays, she is a little lonely, so when her boss Jorge asks her if she would like a very young guinea pig she is pleased to accept. A vet tells her that it needs constant company, so she devises a carrier for him and Mr Bob goes everywhere with her.
Tarah is happily running the site and meeting those who visit, and comes up with the idea of a games evening for the guests to meet and enjoy some entertainment. An older lady becomes a particular friend on her regular visits. When a group of four, two couples, arrive, she is happy to welcome them back to a regular holiday destination. However, there seems to be some difficulty with their ambitious plans, and when a phone call alerts her to a tragedy, she will have to summon all her resources to find out the truth, by any unconventional means she can find.
This book benefits from some lovely descriptions of the island setting and the idea of permanently sunny weather. The characters of the landlord, his workers and other locals are full of insight, especially a disappointed but nonetheless ambitious musician in a local bar. When a tragedy happens, Tarah’s determination to get to the truth is impressive, especially when she is inspired by Mr Bob to observe the holiday party carefully and think about the implications of what they are doing. This is a carefully written and sometimes funny book with a genuinely engaging theme, and I would be interested to read further books from this author.
This is the second novel to feature Clarry Pennhaligan working as a private detective; as it was the first book I had read from Angela Dyson I had read so I can definitely say it works as a standalone novel. A contemporary view of London life and in particular the varied experiences of some women, with some dangerous moments, perilous situations and a dash of romance, Clarry gets to grips with her case as she investigates a young woman’s secrets. It also has large doses of humour and realism as Clarry realises and relates to the reader that she is hardly a glamorous detective, and her clothes choices are sometimes a little haphazard. I really enjoyed this fast paced, exciting and genuinely funny book, and was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review it.
Clarry is capable of getting herself into some complicated situations as she accepts the seemingly straightforward job of checking on the friendships of a difficult daughter, as the narrative switches from situation comedy moments to gentle thriller with pursuit across the more interesting parts of London. To add to the challenge her worthy assistant is a seventy year old friend whose lovelife is far more exciting than Clarry’s own, which is fortunate as Fran can call on the expertise of a variety of gentlemen who offer computer skills and driving a memorable vehicle on a search for the truth of some interesting people.
The pace rarely lets up as Clarry tries to navigate the etiquette of escaping an anniversary party, deals with drunken rugby players, climbs ever higher in a mysterious building and investigates a group of unusual women. Some comic set pieces includes an outing in a hearse and a visit to a new age shop for notelets and information. As financial irregularities come to light, Clarry looks further into a group with interesting motivations, and finds out more family secrets. The tone turns a little darker as a midnight meeting exposes a threat which will become very real. Lots of interesting characters flit across the story as Clarry tries to follow the convoluted mystery that surrounds Vanessa.
This is a well written and well paced novel which maintains interest throughout and includes so much. Clarry as the main character is an essentially interesting person as she navigates part time work and being an amateur detective, without any great trauma in her past life and a positive collection of friends. This essentially a light hearted read with genuinely funny dialogue, which handles the dark side of the investigation well. I liked the range of characters as older women are seen as capable, funny and attractive, while the main character is seen as having insecurities and doubts as she pursues the truth. An elderly couple who help with the detecting are realistically depicted, as is the landscape of a small bit of London which the author obviously knows well. For me this book achieves a good balance of humour, mild peril, gracious living and positive female characters who take the lead in a very readable novel. I shall definitely look out for more books by this author, and I recommend it as an unusual contemporary detective novel.