Pauline Bell: Nothing But the Truth
(11th in the Benny Mitchell series 2005)
(note: I often take these series numbers
from Fantastic Fiction but it is very far
from reliable – for instance this is not listed
as a Benny Mitchell book but it certainly is.
However it functions well as a rough guide).

>>Chief Detective Inspector Benedict Mitchell refuses to go
with his wife to their old school where a party is being held
in honour of the headmaster, who is now retiring. Consequently,
when one of the departing guests is killed by a hit-and-run driver,
Mitchell’s wife is the only witness. And Virginia is adamant that
the driver hit Donald Markey intentionally. For twenty-four hours
the incident is treated as murder. However, no confirming
evidence of intent turns up and no one seems, in Superintendent
John Carroll’s view, to have sufficient motive to take such a risk.
The enquiry is officially scaled down and the hunt is now merely
for a driver who failed to stop after causing a fatal injury. Backed
up by his team of officers, Mitchell ignores his superintendent’s
instructions and continues a clandestine and unauthorised investigation
into the victim’s womanising, his financial dealings and his relationship
with his extremely wealthy wife. It transpires the chief suspect is
Virginia’s former school friend who has now fallen on hard times
and Virginia is determined to help her, even concealing evidence
which may have led to her arrest. When Mitchell finds out, great
strain is placed on the marriage. Yet in typically impulsive and
ebullient fashion, Mitchell determines to solve the crime, save
his marriage – and satisfy his demanding superintendent.<<
(publisher’s blurb)

I said I would read another in this series – and I have.
Let’s start with the positives – as with the other book
(Stalker) this has a decent, if far from spectacular, basic
plot. The school re-union idea is good and again (like
genealogy) is one that fits in well with a mystery plot. Best
of all this book has a good prologue. Oh those prologues!
Just how many dark/rainy/snowy locales with a child or
young woman in pain/terror/death have I read? How many
dog-walkers/joggers etc. stumbling on a corpse? (I don’t
mean this can’t be well handled – it is brilliantly done in
the book I am reading now – but so often it is tired cliche which
leads to a lowering of my spirits). Anyway this prologue has
none of that – instead it is all about bank and building society
clerks and a woman opening accounts. A refreshing change
one could say! And Bell also, unusually, has epilogues where
she rather waspishly sums up the fate of various characters
encountered in the course of the story. A nice touch.

So there are positives. But weighed against this are the
facts that the writing tends to the leaden, the characters to
the stereotypical, the sociology to the commonplace. And
beyond all this it is complacently conservative. Good honest
coppers beset by bad superiors and liberal restrictions on
their powers. The world is a simple place where common sense
is the greatest virtue. Ultimately not even decent plots can
hold their own against this kind of dullness ( I could start a
long ramble on how, contrary to some critics, these are
attitudes which are not found in Christie/Allingham/Marsh etc.
but I will desist). There are better, and very much better, writers
around so I will not be adding Bell to my, now re-organised, TBR
list – though I would still pick up one in the library if nothing
better was to be had. So not bad (sorry Yvonne :)) but far from
good.

(November 2007)

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