It’s mud season here in the North. It’s been mild, so the unfrozen ground likes to follow you home. The hound has brought plenty of mud in from the garden, and I spend my weekends de-mudding the house, in the full and certain knowledge that by mid-week the hallway will look as if a herd of cattle have just passed through. It’s therefore no coincidence that I’ve been reading Ann Granger’s “Mud, Muck and Dead Things“.
It’s a splendid title (and reminds me of Rumer Godden’s comment, in the second volume of her autobiography, “A House with Four Rooms”: “I can’t stand farming. It’s all petrol and killing.”) but there is something strangely wrong with the book, and it’s taken me a couple of weeks to work out what it is. It’s the first volume in a new series, introducing a new team of detectives, and yet the detectives don’t appear until almost halfway through the book. It’s one thing to have a bit of a leisurely start, but quite another to chuck your investigators in as an afterthought. Granger is an immensely competent author, and in anyone else’s hands I might have given up, but you know that she can write, and hold up a story, and won’t accidentally drop you on your head like a badly-fixed hammock, and yet… this one doesn’t really work for me. In a spirit of either optimism or masochism, I have ordered the next one in the series. There will be a second chance, but definitely no third chances.