Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Small World of Murder: Review

The Small World of Murder 1973) by Elizabeth Ferrars isn't your standard Christmas murder mystery. No snow, no Yule log, no holly and hot cider. It's murder on the way to Australia where Christmas will take place with turkey and plum pudding...with a blistering ninety degrees outside. It's not exactly the happiest of holiday journeys either. Nicola and Jocelyn Foley have decided to take a long journey to Australia (with stops in Mexico, Fiji, and New Zealand) to spend Christmas with Jocelyn's brother Aidan. Jocelyn has hopes that the trip will be good for them as they try to recover from the disappearance of their infant daughter who vanished from her pram outside a local supermarket. There was no demand for ransom and the police have found no leads in the months that followed. They're quite sure that the little girl is dead.

Jocelyn invites Nicola's long-time friend Nina Hemslow to join them and Nina, who could never afford such a trip on her own, accepts readily. But the atmosphere is uncomfortable, at best. Nicola soon confides in Nina that she shouldn't have come--that she is quite sure that Jocelyn is trying to kill her. There have been a few "accidents" at home and in Mexico Nicola is nearly run over when (she says) Jocelyn pushes her from the curb. But Jocelyn also tells of incidents that have made him think Nicola wants to be rid of him. It's all very confusing and oppressive.

And what about Bill Lyndon, a friend of Jocelyn's family? Why does he keep popping up wherever they go? Nina wants to confide in him--and feels herself drawn to him--but can she trust him? There is more drama and the first death occurs in Australia. But the mystery isn't unraveled until Nina returns to England...and it's even more confusing than she thought. I've read many of Elizabeth (E. X.) Ferrar's books--mostly in her series featuring retired professor of botany Andrew Basnett--and I've generally enjoyed them. But this one did not do a thing for me. Very oppressive, instead of suspenseful as most of her non-series books are. And really quite convoluted--especially the explanation. I'm still not sure that I understand the motivation behind the kidnapping and the murders. Unlike other novels I've read by Ferrars, there wasn't much to like about the characters, either. I didn't feel the empathy that I would expect to feel for parents who had lost their only child and I didn't feel drawn into their difficulties in recovering from the loss. The most likeable character was Nina, but even she doesn't draw my attention the way a protagonist should. Overall, a very disappointing read.

[Finished on 9/25/17]
This fulfills the "Broken Object" (poor teddy!) on the Silver Vintage Scavenger Hunt card.


Peggy Ann said...

Wow, one star. The premise sounds good and I like Ferrar but I'm thinking I'll stay away from this one then. Nice review.

Bev Hankins said...

Peggy Ann: Tracy K over at Bitter Tea & Mystery liked it quite a lot--so your mileage may vary.