Simon Brett,
Blotto, Twinks & the Dead Dowager Duchess
(Felony & Mayhem, 2012)

Here is the lead to Simon Brett's latest novel, Blotto, Twinks & the Dead Dowager Duchess:

If there was one thing Blotto (properly known as the honourable Devereaux Lyminster) didn't like about weekend house parties, it was the inevitable gathering-together of a large number of people with dark secrets in their past, along with the tiresome near-certainty that one of them would get murdered.

Well, we know we're in the land of satire and comedy. It seems that wherever Blotto, the not-too-bright half of the team, and Twinks, his glorious, beautiful and exceptionally brilliant sister, go, murders happen.

Faced with one of these murders, Twinks checks the clues and solves them on the spot. Blotto, aided by his trusty cricket bat, handles the action stuff. As these adventures -- this is the second Blotto and Twinks novel -- take place in the 1920s, it takes only a couple of pages to realize that we are deep into P.G. Wodehouse territory. Consider: a not-too-bright man about town on an allowance is brought by his domineering mother to the country estate of a second domineering duchess, where a truly feared daughter of the second duchess -- in this case Laetitia, possessor of the nickname "the snittering old ironing board" -- is determined to marry him. This, of course, is your basic Bertie Wooster situation. The difference is that, instead of the crime involving Bertie being ordered to steal an antique, the second duchess is murdered.

A blot on the weekend, you know.

Twinks solves the murder in an instant, but a meddling amateur detective accuses the wrong member of the staff, who is arrested, so Blotto and Twinks have to find the real murderer, who has escaped. The search takes them deep into Fu Manchu territory -- Blotto has been reading a Fu Manchu novel for six months now -- complete with a secret order and a mad villain who intends nothing less than to rule the world. The first step in world domination? Killing all of Britain's nobility. A horrible thing that cannot be allowed because Blotto and Twinks are huge supporters of the class system.

As they track down the members and then the leader of the Crimson Hand, the two amateur detectives encounter all kinds of villainy, which they promptly dispatch.

Here is the end of chapter 20 and the beginning of chapter 21:

Blotto and Twinks found themselves facing twenty uniformed men with rifles at the ready.

"Larksissimo!" murmured Twinks.

"Hoopee-doopee!" murmured Blotto.

Chapter twenty-one

Blotto managed to defeat the twenty uniformed men with rifles who were guarding Llanystwyth House -- usual thing, he'd have preferred to have his cricket bat with him, but he wasn't so dusty with his bare hands....

That's about how seriously we're supposed to take this novel. It's an outrageous and hilarious satire on the classical mystery, the British class system, action-adventure stories -- all of the pop literature and attitudes of the 20th century. And it's an incredible amount of fun. If you're a fan of Wodehouse's humor, or any of the other targets of the satire, you'll love this book.

If you are unfamiliar with any of the targets, you'll still love this book. Blotto, Twinks & the Dead Dowager Duchess is that funny. And that good.

book review by
Michael Scott Cain

18 August 2012

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