Wednesday, 19 November 2014

False Step by Veronica Heley

published 2008







[Bea Abbot has been employed to clear the house of a dead actor]

Bea opened the first wardrobe to inspect the dresses within. Each costume had been carefully put on a padded hanger, and fitted into a zipped plastic cover. Full-length dresses, sequinned, cut high across the neckline, three-quarter sleeves. Shimmery sheaths. The grey satin outfit he’d worn for the portrait. Not much black. No red. Nothing to hint at a pantomime dame.

She pulled a full-length dusky pink sheath out at random and held it out to Oliver. ‘How tall are you? You’ve grown a bit recently. Five nine? About that. Do me a favour, and try this on.’

Oliver gaped. ‘No way!’

‘Don’t be absurd, Oliver. I need to test a theory, a suspicion of … just do it, will you? I promise not to take photographs.’

‘I couldn’t.’

‘The colour’s too bright? Let’s try this blue outfit, then.’ The blue outfit had a feather boa to go with it. A fine silk jersey, with a draped bodice, slender over the hips.



observations: I am embarrassed to say that I cannot remember who recommended this book to me – one of my lovely fellow-bloggers, maybe Bernadette? Please accept my apologies, and if you tell me in the comments I will add your shoutout.

Whoever it was knew that the clothes conundrums in this cozy mystery would be right up my street. The body of an older male actor is found, covered in a fancy gown and with a pair of red shoes. It seems he has committed suicide, but Bea Abot, who gets involved via her domestic agency, has her suspicions. He is a renowned drag artist, and she doesn’t think the dress he is found with is quite right, and there is a shoe that doesn’t fit.

I’ve read books from Veronica Heley’s other series, with cleric Ellie Quicke, and enjoyed them, but this is my first from her Abbot Agency series. It’s not going to rock the world or win any awards, but I enjoyed it for what it was: a good mystery. There is something unusual about the structure: it is obvious to the reader from the beginning who one of the two murderers must be. Halfway through, the second one seems to emerge. But Heley still managed to surprise me at the end. The book is obviously part of a series with several continuing characters, but there was no problem with coming in late, and the details of contemporary London life were interesting. I was surprised that Bea thought that ‘properly trained nannies knew how to deal with’ being ‘pawed by the client’s husband’. It seemed out of character for a woman of unashamed Christian principles. There seemed an almost miraculous plotline regarding pregnancy near the end (Christian principles again?). And I was delighted by a reference to a ‘curling iron staircase’ – I thought it might be something to do with the drag artist’s hair arrangements, but I think it was merely descriptive, piling on adjectives.

The butler dressed up in this recent entry on Barbara Neil’s The Possession of Delia Sutherland, and Carol Anshaw’s Lucky in the Corner has some ‘vamps from another era’ dressing up to play cards.

The picture, from Wikimedia Commons, is a New Zealand drag artist of the 1960s, Kiwi Carmen.

12 comments:

  1. Recommender? not me..... sorry not feeling this one either - another pass!

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    1. Nope, somehow didn't think it was you....

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  2. Moira - I wasn't the one who recommended this, but it does sound enjoyable. I like the wit in the snippet that you shared, too. Hmmm...that's an interesting premise for a story as well. Glad you liked this.

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    1. It was a nice easy book, and I liked the fact that it managed to surprise me....

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  3. Sounds like fun - thanks Moira, I'll tuck this one away as I want to try a more successful cosy than the last one I have already completely forgotten!

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    1. I think different ones appeal to us, for different reasons, but this was a clever plot buried in its very cozy surroundings, so worth a try.

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  4. Moira: I had never realized there was a drag cozy in England!

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    1. An excellent way of putting it Bill. Me neither, until now.... quite unexpected.

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  5. Moira, never heard, so never recommended. I don't think I have read a drag-inspired cosy mystery but given its premise this book sounds rather unique and therefore interesting.

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    1. It is - it seems to be in a certain track, and then it takes you aback by jumping in another direction.

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  6. Someday I will have to try this author. Are the books semi-cozy or very cozy?

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    1. I would definitely say semi-cozy. I kept getting slight surprises, as despite the cozy format, the author kept introducing interesting aspects of modern London, and a look at the wider world.

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