I was loaned this by a neighbour who happened to have a hardback copy of it (with a gorgeous dust jacket and scarlet endpapers) put out by HQ, which is a newish imprint of HarperCollins.
On the cover it says ‘death stalks the beaches of Devon’ (it means south Devon – and is responsible for my lovely neighbour now believing that Lyme Regis has shuffled across the border from Dorset). I live on the south coast of Dorset and have familial links to Devon’s Riviera, so its Devon-ness was an attraction
This is the second ‘Miss Dimont mystery’: it is a cosy mystery – not my usual sort of read. But almost any genre is readable if it is well-written. And this is.
A little research into T P Fielden, reveals him to be Christopher Wilson, a newspaper and television journalist who in 2016 got a four book deal from HQ to write this series of novels featuring Miss Dimont. This is the second.
The characters are good. The locations are luscious (Temple Regis is fictional, the rest are a mixture of the fictional and real places in south Devon). The book is set on the cusp of the Sixties. The war still looms large from the recent past, but pop music is on the horizon. A major strand is the seaside beauty pageant: it does not get an easy ride.
Fielden is obviously fond of the Devon Riviera, although his tongue often strays into his cheek. And unless his research has been really extensive, remembers fondly the days of which he writes.
Miss Dimont is chief reporter of the local weekly paper, The Riviera Express. This does not jive with my memories of work available to women in the Seventies, let alone the Sixties. But Miss Dimont is an unusual woman. She has unusual women friends. They did unusual things in the war (that they can’t talk about, even at a remove of some 15 years).
Two violent deaths occur during the book. One could be an accident. The other could be suicide. Or maybe not. The way Miss Dimont and her apprentice, Valentine Ford, work the clues to find out the truth is credible and consistently interesting.
There is a McGuffin with which I take issue, in Chapter 26 – but I cannot go into detail without dropping in a major spoiler. It involves seamanship. See if you spot it when you get there.
There is a whoopsie which somebody should’ve caught before publication, also in Chapter 26 when ‘Armstrong’ (confusingly) becomes ‘Wetherby’. On the whole, however, this is a well produced book. (Something that is not, these days, a given – even with a major publishing house.)
I defy you not to be entranced by the Chinese Singing Master.
I see all four Miss Dimont books are now available.