This Private Plot: A Novel by Alan Beechey (Poisoned Pen Press, $24.95, 307 pages; $14.95 [trade paper], 260 pages)
“The odd thing about a banana.” Oliver Swithin mused as he chased the naked policewoman across the moonlit field, “is not that it’s an excellent source of potassium, but that everybody seems to know it is.”
Not exactly the standard mystery novel opening line (i.e., “It was a dark and stormy night….”).
Author Alan Beechey launches this book, his third in the Oliver Swithin series, with the quote listed above; and he proceeds to the finish without easing up on the charm, mayhem and quirky situations. The English countryside is the locale and the event is Oliver’s visit to his parents’ home. He has brought along his girlfriend, Detective Sargent Effie Strongitharm, the naked policewoman whom he is chasing in the moonlight. By the way, Oliver is in the same state of undress.
While out on their jaunt, Oliver discovers the body of a retired children’s TV show personality who read stories to the kiddies. It is hanging from a nearby tree. Of course the fellow happens to be dead. With this discovery, the mystery attains focus. Since Oliver happens to be a well-known author of children’s books, he’s familiar with the fellow. It’s not immediately evident whether the death is a suicide or murder.
The plot is artfully tangled with twists and odd revelations by the characters. In a way, the diligent pursuit of the truth is a vehicle for the outrageous character names such as Lesbia Weguelin and Effie Strongitarm. Moreover, Oliver has a remarkable memory for details that he calls anti-trivia. His details are not the usual every-day stuff known by most of us – George Washington’s wooden false teeth, bananas being a good source of potassium. Oliver is planning a book that will feature the best of his details and the reader is treated to many of them along the way to the grand finale of This Private Plot.
A review copy was provided by the publisher.