Dead....but not so good

Bookhounders will know that I'm a bit of a fan of the "woman in danger" style thriller, with M.M. Kaye and Mary Stewart being particular favourites. M.M. Kaye wrote a chunk of thrillers in the 1950s set around places in which her husband was posted during his time in the British Army. The series were re-branded at some point as the "Death in...." series, and are generally very good.

Subsequently she branched out into historical romance, setting two novels (both great fun) in Imperialist India - The Far Pavilions and Shadow of the Moon; and one in nineteenth-century Zanzibar Trade Wind (or as it's charmingly and erroneously referred to in the bibliography at the front of my edition of Death in Zanzibar - Trade Wine (sic) ). Trade Wind was a sort of prequel, albeit in a very different genre, to the last of her Death in.... novels - Death in Zanzibar.

Having just finished Death in Zanzibar, I'm not altogether surprised that she decided to change tack. I've always thoroughly enjoyed this series but D in Z was a definite disappointment. As ever with Kaye the background detail is good, although the enthusiasm for place that shone through her other novels seems to be rather muted in this.

The characterisation and thundering good mystery story that always kept the reader hooked in previous novels is, however, completely missing here. Young Dany Ashton is thrilled when she is invited out to Zanzibar to stay with her mother, Dany having spent most of her life with an aunt in England while her mother and author step-father travelled around the world. The holiday gets off to an unexpected start when her hotel room is ransacked, and she runs into the improbably named, Lash Holden; who, in a drunken moment, persuades Dany to pose as his secretary, only for murder to follow them from Europe to Africa.

It's all rather silly. What with reds-under-the-beds, lips getting ever stiffer, stiffs of the dead variety appearing left, right, and centre, and a treasure hunt worthy of the Famous Five, this is a supremely daft book. An enjoyable afternoon's read, if you're in the mood for a spot of mental candyfloss, but not Kaye at her best. For that, you should try one of the earlier Death in... novels, or how about The Far Pavilions?


Clare Chase said…
I loved M M Kaye's Death in... series. I've been tempted to re-read them recently, since I can't remember them individually, but won't start with D in Z after your timely review!
Book-hound said…
I've got the complete set. You're welcome to borrow all / any anytime, Clare. Enjoy!

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