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by Simon Brett

UK Hardcover - 336 pages (12 January, 2001)
Macmillan; ISBN: 0333765591

Reviewed by Karen Meek

DEATH ON THE DOWNSis the second entry in the Fethering Mysteries series, following on from THE BODY ON THE BEACH. Both feature the somewhat strait-laced retired Home Office employee Carole Seddon and her neighbour and mysterious free spirit, Jude.

Carole is walking in the Downs near the small archetypal English village of Weldisham when a sudden downpour forces her to take cover in an abandoned barn.

Carole gets an almighty shock when the planks she sits on give way and reveal two fertiliser bags full of human bones.

Unlike in THE BODY ON THE BEACH, the police, in the shape of local man DS Baylis, are nothing but solicitous. A rumour quickly goes round the small village that the bones are of a young woman, Tamsin Lutteridge, who disappeared four months ago.

When Carole reports this to Jude, Jude is extremely upset as she had been treating Tamsin for her chronic fatigue syndrome or ME. However when Jude visits Tamsin's mother, she finds her strangely calm and certain that Tamsin is alive. Whilst Jude is with the Lutteridges, Carole waits for her in the local pub where she strikes up an acquaintance with village elder Graham Forbes. A subsequent invite from the Forbes' to a dinner party gives Carole the chance to begin her investigation into the identity of the bones. In the meantime, Jude sets out to find Tamsin.

DEATH ON THE DOWNSis a well-constructed and wryly amusing amateur detective novel. In addition the author pokes gentle fun at village life, both at the insiders and incomers. The story flows along, effortlessly switching point of view between Carole and Jude. Though Jude remains a mystery, Carole is developing into a warmer and more flexible person who even experiences a taste of romance in this outing. As with all three of Simon Brett's series, I eagerly await the next episode.

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