Tuesday, 20 April 2010

"Blood Red", Quintin Jardine

Straddling the line between light hearted murder romp and something a little more gritty "Blood Red" is a highly readable piece of crime writing. With British crime fiction set in Spain there's always a mild worry that what you're going to get is somehow going to be a mix between "El Dorado" and an overseas episode of "Rosemary and Thyme". This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but there's a hint of trepidation there nonetheless. Indeed, while Primavera Blackstone is introduced as someone slightly hard bitten in a Martina Cole sort of vein, quite rapidly she becomes an inherently much happier personality.

The setting too is suitably bucolic. The Catalan village at the heart of the story is exactly the sort of place most readers would want to end up in, and the dilettante existence Primavera lives has a lot of appealing points. The sojourn in Granada adds more appeal to its Spanish setting, tantalising a reader in a bleak UK with the prospect of canas, tapas, and fantastic food.

Underneath the almost chick-lit storyline of planning the village wine fair lies an entertainingly tortuous murder mystery. The storyline contorts sufficiently to confound any attempts to predict who the ultimate villain is. This does, however, go too far at times; the cast of characters is possibly one or two people too large. There were points where I found myself flicking back pages, clarifying who precisely a particular character was, and almost itching to sketch out a who's who of St Marti d'Empuries.

There are a couple of points where stylistically it doesn't quite work. Somehow when you have a male author writing a female protagonist in the first person, it feels almost prurient to have in depth descriptions of, err, 'intimate grooming' cropping up...

"Blood Red" is a pleasing sort of murder mystery with engaging characters, an appealing setting, and a style of writing, with short chapters and a steadily moving pace, that keeps your attention. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and in a clear hallmark of a book I'm enjoying ended up being annoyed by interruptions as I ran into the final pages.

In the real world, one of my staff's father lives in Gullane and is a passing acquaintance of Quintin Jardine. In this light he's been on my list of authors to be read for quite some time, and it's good to get off the starting blocks with him. He's an entertaining author well worth the time of day. Gratifyingly there's a goodly sized back catalogue to get to grips with, equally pleasingly Bromley libraries have lots of them. Pleasing times ahead.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book as a review copy from Hodder Headline

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