Saturday 23 February 2008

The Last Post

I’ve received an early copy of the latest novel by Robert Barnard. It’s called The Last Post and it looks very promising. The back cover carries a review from ‘The Daily Telegraph’ which, while not recent, remains true to this day: ‘Robert Barnard is always original, never repeats himself and has a delectable wit.’

I’ve known Bob Barnard for about twenty years, but I started reading his books some time before we first met, through a social event held by the Northern Chapter of the Crime Writers Association. His first detective was Scotland Yard man Perry Trethowan, and later books have often featured another cop, Charlie Peace, but the series don’t focus on the central character in quite the same way as you find with, say, Ian Rankin, John Harvey or Val McDermid. Bob’s books are snappy and fairly short, and full of acute social observation, as well as gleeful humour.

One of my favourites is A Scandal in Belgravia , but although his work is very varied, the books are consistently enjoyable. He's written several books under the pseudonym of Bernard Bastable; these are light historical mysteries, and one of them, A Mansion and its Murders, has never been published in the UK - odd, this, because I found it typically entertaining. He is also a prolific writer of short stories, several of which I've had the pleasure of including in anthologies I've edited (one of them, 'Sins of Scarlet', won the CWA award for best short story of 2006.) A few years ago he was a worthy winner of the CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger, and his reputation is secure. I’m looking forward to The Last Post.

But there’s one Bob Barnard book which isn’t a novel that I’d particularly like to recommend. It is A Talent to Deceive, his appreciation of the work of Agatha Christie. It’s packed with insight, especially in relation to Christie’s ‘strategies of deception’. If you like Christie, you’ll find this book an excellent and characteristically succinct, as well as highly readable, companion to her work.

1 comment:

Maxine Clarke said...

I probably haven't read quite all of Robert Barnard's books, but I have read most of them. About 90 per cent of the time, I think they are fantastic, and I think he's seriously under-rated. I especially like the ones he sets up in Yorkshire, drawing on his experiences in the Bronte society, and for similar reasons I like the books he sets in Norway. I think the "royal bodyguard" series doesn't work as well for me. But like you, I admire the enormous variety of his output.