Around the time that I was dreaming of seeing my first novel appear in print, I studied a good many books which my contemporaries had managed to get published. Examples included Ann Cleeves and Peter Robinson, whose careers I followed right from the start, and Lesley Grant-Adamson. I also bought a novel by Minette Marrin called The Eye of the Beholder; like Lesley, she was published by Faber, which seemed a good recommendation.
However, for reasons I can't now recall, I put Marrin's book (first published in 1988 and paperbacked a year later) aside - and, alas, never got back to it. Until now, that is. I was curious to catch up with it at long last for a number of reasons, not least because Marrin has never returned to the genre. Her name was, however, familiar for many years as a Sunday Times columnist; no doubt she decided she preferred to concentrate on journalism.
The protagonist is a television producer, and while working in France she stumbles across a slightly mysterious death; later, another death occurs, which seems to her to be linked. The story begins pretty well, but suspense falters in the middle, a sign perhaps of Marrin's inexperience as a writer. There's some stuff about art history which I found less than gripping. But then the book picks up pace and interest, and the later scenes are genuinely gripping. The date that the book first appeared is relevant, because of the Cold War aspect of some parts of the plot. And there's a low-key feeling about the way the story unfolds that reminded me a bit of a book I read long ago, Roy Fuller's The Second Curtain.
Marrin is a capable writer, and there are some witty and thought-provoking lines which make me regret that she didn't continue as a novelist. Her heroine reads mysteries, so Marrin must like the genre, but perhaps she found it insufficiently rewarding financially. The Eye of the Beholder is, I think it's fair to say, a book of promise rather than major achievement, but the promise is so considerable that one wishes it had marked the start of a crime writing career.