If you thought Brighton was all knickerbocker glories and greasy fish and chips, I’ve got news for you! A Shot in the Dark is a fun mix of action, drama and a whole load of laughs – you’ll probably want to pack this one for your holiday!
The novel begins with the ‘Middle Street Massacre’ of 1951 where two rival gangs managed to wipe each other out within a few minutes while the coppers in charge enjoyed an ice cream at Luigi’s.
The stars of the show are Inspector Steine who hates crime and loves living in his little bubble where everything is peachy keen, and Sergeant Brunswick who’s a bit of a worry wart and doesn’t believe that all of Brighton’s criminals were wiped out that day. Fast forward 6 years and we are joined by an obnoxious and smelly theatre critic, A.S. Crystal, Jack Braithwaite who is the director of the play he’s reviewing, cast members of his play, a phrenologist (yep!), a chattering char lady and the over enthusiastic and annoyingly clever, Constable Twitten.
Bodies start turning up soon enough along with interferences of Scotland Yard and pompous press members which are a riot. Inspector Steine still ignoring the magnitude of crime taking place right under his nose, decides he’d rather work on his radio show appearances, while his sergeant and the new constable take charge and run into comical yet dangerous situations. Rivalries run deep and old between a few of the characters of the book so you’ll find it go back and forth a few times through memories and anecdotes which is where the answers to the murders lie.
What I loved the most was that despite there being a rising body count, the novel still manages to bring out the charm and playfulness of Brighton which it has always been known for. The characters are mostly obnoxious while still making you root for some of them which is no easy feat. I didn’t think comedy and crime would work together but I am having to eat my words here a little bit.
The story progresses as quickly or as slowly as you want it to so you can read it one go (I promise you’ll be entertained throughout) or dip in and out at a more leisurely pace. Without giving too much away, I can tell you you’re going to love it – it is a delightful read full of blundering characters, brutal murders and lots of cake.
Look out for the little references to Graham Green‘s Brighton Rock – a source of annoyance to Inspector Steine – and interesting nods to the East London gang scene of the 50s reminiscent of the famous Kray twins.
Put this one in your suitcase asap, grab a pina colada and dive in. If you’re off holidaying in Brighton, even better.
Lynne Truss is famously known for Eats Shoots & Leaves and her Inspector Steine audio books. A Shot in the Dark is her first Inspector Steine novel and is published by Raven Books.