The 7th in the Peach and Blake series.

The odious and doltish Superintendent Tucker is
attending his Masonic Lodge’s Ladies Night and is
appalled when a mason is found murdered in the
car park.

This ought to have been absolutely natural terrain
for Gregson. Tucker’s Masonic membership has
been one of the main strands in the never ending
war of attrition which Peach wages against his superior
throughout the series, and which provides the vast
part of the series’ comedy. In addition a Masonic
lodge provides suspects of the age, class, race and
gender with whom Gregson is happiest (ie: middle aged
and above, middle class, white and male) (it should be
noted that this is an accurate and ‘realistic’ description
of Masonic membership – not that one should approach
Gregson looking for realism). But something goes wrong.
It may be simply that I have read too many of the series too
close together and the jokes/simplistic characterisations
are becoming wearisome. But it is not just that. Gregson
introduces a back-plot from Northern Ireland – the
murder victim was a fervent loyalist in the past. I have
never yet read a Britmyst where the introduction of this
theme did not spell disaster (or at least disappointment)
in one shape or another. And it is completely unsuitable
here – too serious, too political, too complex; Gregson
subsides into cliche. Now the murdered man, it emerges, was
also the local Masonic Lothario and had been having affairs
with various fellow mason’s wives; why on earth did
Gregson not stick with this pleasant subject, rich in comic
and dramatic potential? I suspect the dreaded urge to be
considered serious – which he never will be as, frankly,
he does not have the weight of intellect. It is a matter of
staying in the comfort zone and doing what you do well
(which is hard and rare enough).

(June 2007)