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by Alan Beechey
Poisoned Pen, May 2014
232 pages
ISBN: 1464202443

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Not quite a police procedural but not quite a cozy, Alan Beechey's AN EMBARRASSMENT OF CORPSES is, above all else, a whole lot of fun. From an army of imaginatively named characters to an encyclopedic range of arcane knowledge about London to a bit of romance, this first book in a series of Oliver Swithin mysteries delivers humor, wit, and a darn good mystery, as well.

After a night of snark hunting, Oliver Swithin finds his friend and fellow children's book author dead in a fountain in Trafalgar Square. Oliver suspects foul play, but the police, including Oliver's uncle, Detective Superintendent Tim Mallard of Scotland Yard, declare the death and accident. But when a second corpse appears the following day, complete with a mysterious mark similar to the one on Oliver's friend's body, Scotland Yard begins to think Oliver might have been on to something, and Mallard enlists Oliver's help in solving the case. With a murder each day, the pace is fast, and Oliver, his uncle, and the lovely Detective Sergeant Effie Strongitharm have to race against time to stop a serial killer.

The twisting plot, complete with cleverly placed clues—and red herrings— is enough to keep the reader engaged, but Beechey's deftly drawn, supremely likable characters, all with interesting quirks, back stories, and subplots, make the book even more enticing. But the real stars of the novel are Beechey's quick-witted wordplay and subtle (and not-so-subtle) humor that keep the mood light, in spite of the fact that the bodies stack up rather quickly.

Although this book was first published in 1997, it stands the test of time well, and Poisoned Pen Press's new paperback edition is the perfect way for a new audience to discover Oliver Swithin (or old friends to get reacquainted). Making this introduction even better: the renowned Scottsdale press has also re-issued two more Oliver Swithin mysteries just in time for some light summer reading.

§ Meredith Frazier, a writer with a background in English literature, lives in Dallas, Texas

Reviewed by Meredith Frazier, May 2014

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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