Previous reviews are at Mack Pitches Up

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Granny Smith Investigates by Gary Dobbs

It is a fact without dispute that the British village is one of the most dangerous places a person can live. Many dark secrets are harboured and murder is likely at any moment. If a village fete is in progress you can be certain someone's a goner.

Sometime during the Gilfach Village Fete (in Wales), Edith Sullivan is brutally murdered. Edith had been seen arguing with her husband Stanley so the police, led by Chief Inspector Miskin, consider Stan their prime suspect. Mary Alice Smith, AKA Granny Smith, is having none of it. Besides the fact that Stan was sinking pints with her husband Arthur all evening in the beer tent, she just knows —neighbors for 20 years after all— that Stan isn't capable of murder. When the police —"we know what we're doing"—don't take Granny's observations seriously, she has to prove Stan innocent and find the guilty party herself. What did Edith see at the fete that shocked her? What's the story with the engagement of Sheila and the much younger, semi-retired but "dishy, sex on legs" London solicitor Nigel Charlton.

Granny Smith Investigates answers the question, "how might Miss Marple turned out had she been born in the 1950s instead of the 1860s." She is referred to as "Miss Marple on steroids" several times in the course of the s generally disregard the proven crime solving record of the amateur sleuth. You can deduce that Granny isn't exactly like her fictional counterpart but how she differs I will leave to the reader to find out. More fun that way. Just keep in mind that she would have been an adolescent in the 1960s.

As in Gary's other writing, he puts great care in crafting his characters, gives them dimension, then puts them in a setting where their personalities fit the story. A second novel is due out later this year and Gary promises a more "densely plotted whodunit" but not at the expense of the characters. I'm particularly interested to see what he does with Gerald, Granny's son. I keep thinking about the character Daffyd in the BBC comedy Little Britain.

Dobbs says that he hadn't read much in the cosy genre before he wrote Granny Smith Investigates but he hits the tropes and his modernized approach to the genre is great fun. He adds "broad humour" which you don't find much of in the Miss Marple mysteries. He considers the genre in this post, What is a Cozy Crime? About his approach to the cozy Gary writes, "I'm reading more and more cozies now and so I'm starting to understand the genre boundaries - all the better to hop over them". I'm looking forward to seeing how Gary places his stamp on this venerable genre.

About the author:
There are some curious aspects to Gary Dobbs you have to account for when introducing him. He is, variously: a Welshman; he writes novels set in the American West (as Jack Martin); he is a bit of a Ripperologist (A Policeman's Lot/The Rhondda Ripper and on Amazon); he's an actor who has appeared in Doctor Who and Torchwood (swoon), and has a good role in the horror film The Reverend; and on Jan. 1, 2013, he will hang up his taxi license and become a full-time writer. I did a three part interview with Gary back in 2010 which is due for an updating. He blogs at The Tainted Archive.