Mark Bailey Reviews Simon Brett

Simon Brett – The Killing in the Cafe: a Fethering Mystery

Simon Brett – The Killing in the Cafe: a Fethering Mystery

Hardback: 192 pages (November 2015 – UK, March 2016 – US)

Publisher: Creme de la Crime

ISBN: 978-1780290812 (Hardback)


Simon Brett - The Killing in the Cafe
Simon Brett – The Killing in the Cafe

THE KILLING IN THE CAFE is the 17th of the Fethering series of novels by Simon Brett.


Polly’s Cake Shop has been a feature in Fethering for many years but when its current owner announces her retirement, the residents worry about the loss of this popular amenity and alarmed by the rumours circulating they form the Save Polly’s Cake Shop Action Committee. Their plan is that the cake shop should become a community venture which is both managed and run by volunteers from the village. Jude is roped in to help by one of her clients and finds the committee meetings fraught with petty power struggles and clashing personalities & egos.

Carole and Jude discover a badly-decomposed body on Fethering beach and uncover a link to Polly’s – now they have to find out whodunit.


Like all of the Fethering novels I have read what you get here is a good solid character driven novel in an interesting milieu with characters who are believable if a little bit over the top.

Again there isn’t a strong whodunit here – pick the character who is most out of place and that is your killer BUT this is a nice traditional cozy mystery with just a little bit of dark humour and I will continue with the series.

My copy was provided by the publishers, Severn House, via Netgalley.

Elly Griffiths Mark Bailey

Elly Griffiths – Smoke and Mirrors (2015)

Elly Griffiths – Smoke and Mirrors (2015)

Quercus, Hardcover, 352 pages

Expected publication: November 5th 2015

ISBN13: 9781784290269

Elly Griffiths - Smoke and Mirrors
Elly Griffiths – Smoke and Mirrors

Smoke and Mirrors is the 2nd in the Stephens and Mephisto Mystery series by Elly Griffiths (probably best known for the Ruth Galloway novels).

It is Brighton, England in 1951 – the war is over but rationing is ongoing and life is still grim.

Max Mephisto, master illusionist, is slumming it somewhat in a pantomime on the Palace Pier playing Abanazar, the Demon King in Aladdin.

But the headlines in the local papers are no longer about his first appearance in a pantomime, but about the disappearance of two local children (Mark and Annie); when they are found dead in the snow, surrounded by sweets, it’s not long before the police nickname them ‘Hansel and Gretel’.

There are plenty of leads for DI Edgar Stephens (war-time comrade of Max) to investigate.

Annie used to write gruesome plays based on the unexpurgated versions of Grimms’ fairy tales – does the clue lie in her last unfinished – and rather disturbing – script?

Is the presence of sweets a red herring or where they used to lure them to their deaths by Sam Gee, owner of the corner shop where the local children bought sweets?

Or does the answer lie with the eccentric cast of theatricals who have assembled for the pantomime?


I haven’t read the first in the series (The Zig Zag Girl) but do like the Ruth Galloway novels so I thought this might be worth a try plus I have always been interested in the worlds of magic and theatre. In terms of whether you can start here, I think you can as I certainly picked up what background was needed to enjoy the novel as I went along so this can be read as a standalone novel in my opinion.

There is excellent characterisation, especially of the 4 main protagonists (Max Mephisto, DI Edgar Stephens and his 2 sergeants, Emma Holmes (new to CID) and Bob Willis) all who contrast with each other nicely – especially the Roedean educated Holmes and the secondary modern educated Willis.

The mystery element is well handled with twists and turns but a fair outcome.

But for me, it is the detail in the background that makes this book work so well – the wartime experience of Edgar and Max as part of a shadowy secret unit called the Magic Men who used stage trickery to confuse the enemy (paralleling the claims of Jasper Maskelyne in his book Magic: Top Secret) and the seediness of Brighton in general post-war and especially within the theatrical community are particular strengths.