Buy this book?

by Robert Barnard

Scribner 1999 (US edition) $22.00

Reviewed by J. Ashley

I picked up this book based solely on the title. But it has little to do with Indian or Pakistani restaurants. Instead, a body is found dumped in the trunk of a broken-down car belonging to a waiter in Haworth, historic home of the Bronte's in the north of England.

The corpse is traced back to a rural farm called Ashworth, which has been converted into cottages for let, with the main house occupied by the famous artist Ranulph Byatt.

Detective Constable Charlie Peace follows the trail of the corpse and learns more about the strange inhabitants of Ashworth, a range of artists come to worship at the feet of Byatt. Byatt, now a frail old man, had hired a handyman to assist him in everything from dressing to mixing colors. The disappearance of the young handyman continues Peace's investigation, and he comes to learn the bizarre secrets of Ashworth.

Barnard sets a good pace, and plunges you into the hearts and minds of the Ashworth inhabitants. I figured out quickly who was doing what to whom and why, but Barnard still manages to evoke chilling evil and a bring about a satisfying conclusion. His style is spare and to the point; in short, the book is hard to put down.

I did not get much of a feel for the detective, Charlie Peace, however. Barnard gives you little information: Peace is black, had been raised by a single mother, and had no brothers and sisters. Other than that, I know nothing about him or what he feels. To be fair, it may be that his character is further developed in Barnard's other books; this book was more about the victim and Byatt than about the detective.

Overall I'd recommend this book (and series) to fans of Colin Dexter and Agatha Christie.

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