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This Private Plot: An Oliver Swithin Mystery…
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This Private Plot: An Oliver Swithin Mystery (2014)

by Alan Beechey

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Imagine: if P.G. Wodehouse were alive and writing mysteries. This is a perfect description!

The plot is nice and twisty, and mostly character-driven. The absurd moments are very absurd, including the shout-out to Pride & Prejudice -- in a neighboring town there's a couple named the Bennetts, with five unmarried daughters, although their names and characters are not parallel. There were silly situations that yet proceeded naturally from the course of events, and there were twists that I didn't call at all -- and I've read enough mysteries that I can generally predict the main twists. However, this would have been fun to read even if you are more perceptive than I am!

The dialogue is also great, and lots of fun. Our hero, Oliver, is a nice but occasionally a bit dim chap, and his girlfriend ROCKS.

I'm not going to get into the plot for fear of spoilers. Suffice it to say there is blackmail involved with the murder, and sex is involved -- but not explicitly -- in a way both Wodehouse and Austen would blanch at. This is a mystery definitely in the cozy line, but with more protagonist agency than many of the "cozy" protagonists have.

I loved it, and will be getting the other two books in this series, and will be waiting hopefully for a fourth.

I got this book for review from rambles.net, an online ezine3 devoted to reviewing books, music, and sometimes other media. ( )
  cissa | Jul 26, 2014 |
Streaking on the Synne Commons at midnight with his Scotland Yard girlfriend, Effie Strongitham, children’s book author Oliver Swithin and his uncle, Scotland Yard detective superintendent find the body of Dennis Breedlove, a retired children’s radio program host hanging from a tree. The initial investigation discloses a blackmail letter Breedlove’s desk. The death is quickly declared a suicide. Oliver believes if such a letter drives someone to commit suicide, that person is guilty of murder. He then questions whether Breedlove had been able to hang himself.
The plot continues with trying to determine other blackmail victims (going by clues in a book of nursery rhymes [learn what composers Handle and Bononcini have to do with Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum) as well as finding out how Breedlove ended up in the tree. It includes the activities around the town’s local theater performance of Hamlet and questions whether there were one, two, or more Shakespeares.
THIS PRIVATE PLOT is a witty mystery full of the humor for which Britain is well-known as well as showing people’s stereotypical actions. It has a extensive list of eccentric characters and situations. Some of my favorites:
Oliver snuck up behind Effie, covered her eyes and said, “Guess who?” She replied, “Johnny Depp.” “You’re getting warm.” “I would be if it really was Johnny Depp.”
“Piles of paper mounting like stalagmites from the carpet....”
One main character is a tall, black man. Several characters ask him if he played basketball.
“...young English women whose careful breeding and dauntless narcissism are in inverse proportion to their intelligence.”
It compares the dead after being judged to contestants on a television talent show.
It places West Side Story back in an English setting. It points out that the British will forgive and forget almost any kind of misdeed (financial, drugs, alcohol) but fixate on sex.
It strongly demonstrates that a good vocabulary enables authors to write about emotions and sex, including some bawdy scenes, without stooping to vulgarity.
I received this book through the Goodreads Early Readers program and am so glad that I read it. ( )
  Judiex | Jun 24, 2014 |
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If a blackmail letter drives a man to suicide, is the sender guilty of murder? "Yes," says Oliver Swithin, author of bestselling Finsbury the Ferret children's stories and amateur sleuth, who is on holiday in an ancient village.

A midnight streak with his naked girlfriend — Scotland Yard's Effie Strongitharm — abruptly ends in the discover of a corpse. Retired radio broadcaster Dennis Breedlove has hanged himself from the old gibbet. Evidence suggests blackmail may have driven the celebrity to suicide. Irresistibly intrigued, Oliver believes the dead man's secret will lead to the identity of the blackmailer. But in Britain today, when shame is a ticket to fame, why suicide? What if it wasn't?

When the mystery abruptly turns inside out, black-clad strangers attack Oliver in the night. The Vicar behaves strangely. So do the village's five unmarried Bennet sisters, a mysterious monk, the persistent, self-effacing Underwood Tooth, and Oliver's Uncle Tim, Effie's superior at the Yard and a part-time Shakespearean actor. Plus Oliver's aunt and his mother. Who else might play a role in This Private Plot? Two William Shakespeares?

It's time to put the laugh back into slaughter with the long-awaited third chapter in the career of Oliver Swithin. Yet under the clever wordplay and bawdy jokes lies an inventive and yes, scholarly plot.

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Oliver Swithin's reluctant midnight liaison in the English countryside is interrupted by his discovery of a famous man's suicide, which compels Oliver to track down a blackmailer by solving clues involving a Shakespearean excerpt, the five unmarried Bennett sisters, and a mysterious monk.… (more)

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