A Director's Cut - Simon Parke

6th November 2014

Motherís Day is the play chosen to commemorate the 30th anniversary of The Bell Theatre; a theatre with a history of success in spite of its location in Stormhaven, a dying seaside town on the south coast of England.  In attendance is Abbot Peter, in his third novel, accompanied by his niece Detective Inspector Tamsin Shah.  At the opening of the second act, Hermione Bysshe-Urquhart MBE (the owner of the theatre) is revealed seated on-stage, the victim of a brutal murder.

The list of suspects is plentiful, but which of them hated her enough to kill her?  The habit wearing Abbot Peter is drafted in by Shah to assist in the murder investigation, as they delve into the world behind the curtain of amateur dramatics with all its politics and egos, while it becomes clear the murderer isnít quite finished.

I had not read the previous two novels in the Abbot Peter series, however I donít think that this is a requisite before reading this, as snippets of his back story are revealed throughout the novel.  The monk is an unusual character; at times he came across as a little bit boring, then other times he was quite witty and insightful, with a dry sense of humour.

The author spends a great deal of time attempting to develop the supporting cast, however I never really warmed to any of the characters in the novel.  Tamsin Shah in particular was a fairly poor detective, relying on the Abbot to solve the bulk of the mystery while she periodically disappears at inopportune moments of the investigation.  She clearly has some skeletons in her closet, but we are only given a hint as to what they may be.  Shah comes across as a stroppy teenager rather than an experienced investigator, and is too easily riled up by those she interviews.

There are too many characters involved I feel, and some added nothing to the story, the Bishop for Lewes for example.  The character of Margery, formerly of Holby ďfameĒ, was probably the most interesting of the suspects, with her barbed words for her fellow amateur actors, and her own personal demons to tackle.  The character of Boy was also intriguing but we never really learn enough about him and how he came to live in a caravan in the graveyard behind the theatre. 

There were too many instances of jumping between different strands of the story, that meant you never really get a grasp of what exactly is going on until at least halfway through the novel.  The plot is further muddied with a narrative set in the 13th century, with a monk awaiting trial for heresy before the Pope.  It had a vague connection to the plot, but was neither interesting nor integral in any way, and really just padded out a novel which was probably one-third too long.

The reveal at the end is a good twist, and I feel the author could have got to the conclusion quicker.  It wasnít a bad novel by any means, but I feel it adds nothing new to the genre, which in featuring an abbot in the main role it really should.  I received a copy of this novel as part of the Library Thing Member Giveaway, in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 3/5 stars