The Death of Corinne – R.T.Raichev – 2007

Antonia Darcy and Hugh Payne, recently married, are spending the last part
of their honeymoon at the Shropshire country-house of Hugh’s aunt Lady
Grylls. The latter informs them that they are shortly to be joined by her
god-daughter, a French singer called Corinne and Corinne’s manager Maitre
Maginot; Corinne has been receiving death threats and Maginot thinks she
will be safer at Chalfont Park. Parts of the strange history of Corinne are
recounted by Lady Grylls, her enigmatic nephew Peverel, and a private
detective called Andrew Jonson who has been hired by Maginot. Meanwhile a deranged American woman called Eleanor Merchant is making her way to
Chalfont on a mission to confront Corinne about the death of her son Griff,
who committed suicide while listening to one of Corinne’s records. Hardly
surprisingly when all these parties come together at Chalfont murder follows and the Paynes are once more at the centre of an investigation.

Since I covered the general characteristics of Raichev’s work in my review
of The Hunt for Sonya Dufrette a couple of days ago I will not return to
them. It is always interesting to read a writer sequentially and see them
develop their style and form. Here Raichev introduces what is to become an
increasing part of his books, the use of other narrative viewpoints (beyond
that of Antonia and Hugh who – and very largely Antonia – were the only ones provided in the first book). Here we only have one other – that of Eleanor Merchant – but it is, also to become a characteristic, that of some one who is, if not totally, at least partially deranged. As is the case with the
third book, Assassins at Ospreys, which introduced me to Raichev this does
not completely work. It is a very tricky thing to manage the voice of a
deranged person. However by his fourth and latest book, The Little Victim,
he has cracked it.

The other problem with Corinne is structural. Much of it is concerned with
Corinne’s life-story but this is told, in discussion and conversation,
rather than recreated. This makes the book too static. Despite these
problems Raichev’s characteristic wit and elegance still make it a pleasure
to read and there is actually more narrative impetus than in Sonya. There is
a wonderful example of his post-modern playfulness which I will quote to
give people some idea of what I mean. This occurs in Chapter 26 entitled ‘An
Inspector Calls’ .’Antonia detested police procedurals, thought them tedious
in the extreme; in her novels she delayed the appearance of the police for
as long as she could, till chapter twenty-five, say, or thereabouts, and
then gave them the shortest of shrifts’. Of course this is exactly what happens here. Well this kind of joke delights you or doesn’t (it obviously does me!).

The Death of Corinne marks a definite advance from the first book but for me
it is in his third that Raichev makes his biggest leap – and he has
continued to advance from there. With a writer of such quality however it is
always interesting to watch the evolution and Raichev is never less than
very readable.

(April 2009)