Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Review of The Killing of Polly Carter by Robert Thorogood (MIRA, 2015)

When supermodel Polly Carter plummets from the cliffs beside her home on the island of Saint Marie, DI Richard Poole is called in to investigate.  Initially the prognosis is murder, but Poole soon establishes it was murder.  The problem is that the four visitors to the house and her two staff all seemingly have alibis.  Poole and his team set about investigating the death, searching for clues that will reveal the murderer.  Providing a distraction is Poole’s mother who has abandoned her husband in England to join her son in the Caribbean.

The Killing of Polly Carter is the second novel in the Death in Paradise series, a spin-off from the television series of the same name and written by its creator.  It’s very much a modern day take on the classic country house mystery in which a quirky but brilliant detective solves a murder that’s taken place amongst a small group staying in a mansion that’s seen better days.  While the plot has most of the ingredients, it also seems a little uncooked at times.  Part of the issue, I think, is that I never really got vested in the solution or the characters.  While Richard Poole is interesting enough, there’s little backstory provided - for example, we are not told why he’s based on Saint Marie, or why he is living in a beach shack, we just know he's a blow-in from the UK.  Moreover, there’s little character development, with all but Poole being somewhat thin and insubstantial.  It’s almost as if the book is written as an instalment in the series; it’s an episode rather than a movie, with an assumption that the reader is somewhat familiar with the television series and the back plot and characters.  What we’re left with then is the plot, which is a kind of open air version of a locked room mystery in the Agatha Christie mould, with a subplot concerning Poole’s parents.  That was, for the most part, nicely done with all the characters kept in the frame up to the last few pages, though I didn’t really buy the denouement.  Overall, an enjoyable enough police procedural.

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