Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Death in the Andamans by MM Kaye

I've been hard at work on a couple of exciting projects which I hope to bring to Vintage Novels fairly soon (let's just say I've been hard at work reading a whole bunch of fun new novels), so this is going to be a short, light review!

Like most folks, I enjoy a good mystery/suspense yarn, preferably without too many details to keep track of, since I have a hard enough time remembering where I was at 11.17 on the morning of Tuesday the thirteenth let alone a raft of suspicious fictional characters. Mary Stewart's tales are always a favourite, but I don't have a lot of them left to read, and so I have been sniffing around for a replacement.

I'm not yet sure MM Kaye will hit the spot.

Death in the Andamans is the first in a classic series of murder mysteries set in exotic locations. On a tiny cluster of gorgeous but spooky islands in the Bay of Bengal, the Governor's stepdaughter schedules the usual Christmas outing for the usual tiny group of guests. When a storm threatens, the partygoers just make it back to the mansion in time, but not before a boat capsizes, drowning one of them. One of the guests goes into hysterics and footsteps slink through the house after midnight, but not until another guest vanishes does anyone say the word murder...Copper Randall and her chum Valerie decide to investigate before more people die.

This was a pretty enjoyable old-school murder mystery. There was a bit of suspense, a bit of romance, and a bit of humour. The setting is lovingly and vividly described, though not as evocative as a Mary Stewart novel.

Ironically, for a book I didn't love, one of the complaints I have is something the author did very well. Some passages were legitimately creepy and atmospheric, a little too much so for my liking, and I wasn't a fan of the "ghost" in the first chapter (though the author says she had a similar experience during her holiday on the Andamans).

I also felt that the romance was a little clunky--the author throws in a rather obvious red herring pointing at Copper's crush--and was underwhelmed by the identity of the murderer, once it was revealed. Combine these things with a relatively slow-moving plot, and as I said, I didn't love it.

Overall, the book wasn't a huge miss. With just some slight tweaks, I might have loved it, and I'll certainly be looking up the next book, Death in Berlin, at some future date.

Interestingly, this isn't the first of MM Kaye's books that I've read. Years ago I read and loved a fun little children's book called The Ordinary Princess. I'm not sure how well it would stand up to a re-read, but it struck a chord, and it turns out to have been written by MM Kaye.

Get Death in the Andamans from Amazon, the Book Depository, or Open Library.


Unknown said...

Have you ever read Alfred HItchcock's short stories? I bet everybody is familiar with his films, but the stories are quite good, too. I read some of them in my teens, and I remember them being very balanced - enough suspence, enough mystery, enough everything.

Suzannah said...

Ooh, I wasn't aware Alfred Hitchcock wrote short stories. I'll have to look them up sometime! Thanks for the tip!

Anonymous said...

I love MM Kaye's mysteries, I wish she had written more. I think maybe the one about Berlin is the best.



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