cover image The Body on the Beach: A Fethering Mystery

The Body on the Beach: A Fethering Mystery

Simon Brett. Berkley Prime Crime, $21.95 (312pp) ISBN 978-0-425-17500-2

Fans of Brett's witty Mrs. Pargeter and Charles Paris mysteries will cheer this buoyant launch of a series set in the English seaside town of Fethering (mischievously situated ""not far from Tarring""). It's here that Carole Seddon, a fiftyish divorcee late of the Home Office, has settled, content to live a sensible, orderly retirement. But two events conspire to disrupt Carole's rigid routine: the arrival of an alarmingly casual new neighbor who insists on being called, merely, ""Jude""; and the discovery of a dead middle-aged male on the Fethering beach. When Carole informs the police about the body, they dismiss her as a menopausal hysteric; after all, their subsequent search of the area yielded no trace of evidence. But when a haggard, drug-deranged woman appears at Carole's door with a gun, demanding to know if Carole located a knife on the body, Carole realizes that the corpse had been moved just before the police search. When a local teenage boy is found washed up on the beach, it's Jude who convinces Carole that the two deaths are somehow connected--and deserving of the two neighbors' full attention. Carole and Jude have surprising depth as characters, even though Brett overplays his hand in refusing to reveal any details of Jude's former life, including her surname. But the yin/yang relationship of the women is both mysterious and wholly believable, and the seacoast setting is so vivid you can taste the salty air. For late-summer beach reading, this is a cracking good choice. (Aug.)