Monday 30 September 2019

What Hamlet Said by Terry Mort

shortlisted for Book of the Month

"This is a fun read with a compelling storyline, made all the more worthwhile by being extremely well written."


Crime / Murder mystery

What makes a good story? A picturesque setting? Interesting and/or curious characters? Wonderful writing – which means an economy of style as much as a way with words? A story that keeps you reading to the last word or a cunning plot? To get all these in one snappy who-dunnit is a delight. Terry Mort’s new murder mystery kept me hooked until the last paragraph, and laughing out loud along the way.

The story is set in 1930s Los Angeles, California. The characters include a cast of typical Hollywood movie personalities: the chinless British aristocratic (who we never actually meet), his sultry wife, an ice-cold German diplomat complete with scar, a down-on-his-luck, hard-drinking literary author trying to get by as a screen-writer, and various Chandler-esque mobsters, including a shiny-suited Italian casino impresario, plus a couple of over-worked police detectives.

The tale is told by a private eye who goes by the awful name of Bruno Feldspar, but is actually called Riley Fitzhugh. This double identity is the key to the novel; nobody is quite who they appear to be. The plot revolves around Bruno’s investigations into two separate cases: an apparently simple matter of blackmail involving the German diplomat and the Englishwoman, and a much less obvious matter of a missing movie actor, forged identity documents and illegal Balkan immigrants. Bruno suspects the cases are connected because both are related in some way to Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party and the unavoidable war to come, but he has a hard time finding the answers.

Bruno – or Riley – is not ‘a college man’ but he is very well-read and scatters literary allusions into his conversations and narrative wherever he can. Identifying the quotations was fun for me, as was trying to decide if the literary author-cum-failing screenwriter was meant to be Scott Fitzgerald. But this is all extra to the gathering pace of the novel and trying to predict whether the two cases are connected or not.

Good-looking Riley, who naturally started out in Hollywood as an actor, naturally becomes entangled with the sexy Englishwoman, which naturally confuses matters and affects his judgment.

This is a fun read with a compelling storyline, made all the more worthwhile by being extremely well written. Highly recommended to anyone with a sense of humour, although knowing a little bit about the movie ‘Gone with the Wind’ will help. I shall be reading all Terry Mort’s novels from now on.
Something different and definitely a Discovered Diamond.

© John Darling

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