Friday, 2 February 2001

Dorothy Simpson: Dead and Gone (1999)

Edition: Warner Books, 2000
Review number: 738

When the wife of a prominent lawyer goes missing at a dinner party, a police search is begun as soon as they are informed. Finding her body in a well in the garden is the beginning of a case for Simpson's detective, Inspector Thanet, which exposes an extremely dysfunctional family: distant father, mother with compulsive shopping and adultery habits, daughter with unsuitable fiancée, another daughter who disappeared four years ago with her own unsuitable boyfriend, never to be heard of again.

The Mintar family could provide material for several crime novels; they have a large number of problems and secrets. It is a case where Thanet has almost too many avenues of enquiry, and, taken by itself, the novel would be a superior if traditional mystery. Looking at in relation to the series as a whole, one aspect of Dead and Gone really stands out. Part of the mystery involves incest between a brother and sister who do not know that they are related. This theme has come up before in the Thanet series, and while it provides a variety of convincing motives for murder and other crimes, it is a device which Simpson has now unfortunately used too frequently.

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