Book Review: Lynne Truss’ The Man That Got Away is a quirky comedy starring some bumbling Bobbies

Lynne Truss is an author with many feathers to her (detective’s) cap. She is the renowned grammarian who wrote Eats, Shoots & Leaves as well as a journalist by trade. Her latest release is The Man That Got Away, her second crime novel. It’s another offbeat book starring some bumbling Bobbies, Brighton Belles and British bandits.

Readers probably should have read her first instalment, because there are some spoilers revealed through the novel. This book, however does also work as a standalone piece. It follows the story of Constable Twitten, a policeman determined to solve a case, while his boss remains convinced that Brighton is a crime-free city.

It is 1957 and Pete Dupont is a young man who works as a junior clerk at the Waterworks. His throat is slit and his body is found prone in a deckchair. He had been planning to leave town with his girlfriend, Deidre Benson. Some early clues point to individuals attached to the Black Cat nightclub, as well as Benson’s overprotective and violent family.

Truss does an excellent job of placing readers into the era and the seaside town locale. She uses lots of British slang and references. Some of these may go over the heads of younger, Australian audiences. If you’re wondering what a humbug and a charlady is for instance, then you might require Dr Google as you read (that’s a peppermint and a housemaid for those wondering).

There are lots of red herrings and twists to keep you on your toes and guessing. Truss pens a few different subplots and these work together in parallel. She does a great job of threading these together for a cohesive narrative. Her characters also have lots of meat on their bones, so you do get a sense of who they are and what their motivations might be. A recurring theme with Sergeant Brunswick going undercover as a jazz trumpeter provides so much hilarity, it could be on Yes, Prime Minister. To say that some of the police in this story are ineffectual is an understatement.

The Man Who Got Away is a light slice of historical crime fiction. It’s a mystery that has its tongue firmly paced in cheek because it offers a good, fun story and an intriguing, well-plotted case to be solved. This novel is one for readers who appreciate British sensibilities and humour; it will entertain you with its charming group of oafs. In all, this is one colourful farce and nostalgic romp around Brighton Beach.

FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Lynne Truss’ The Man That Got Away is available now through Bloomsbury Publishing.

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