Simon Brett – Blotto, Twinks and the Ex-King’s Daughter (2009)

(an unused rte review)

‘It’s frightfully awkward, Mater, but I’m afraid there’s a dead body in the library.’ The opening words of BLOTTO, TWINKS AND THE EX-KING’S DAUGHTER will probably give a reasonable indication as to whether it is the kind of book which any reader is likely to enjoy.

Blotto – proper name Devereux Lyminster – and Twinks – Hermione Leominster – are the younger son and only daughter of the Dowager Duchess of Lyminster, a fearsome matriarch, who is entertaining ex-King Sigismunde of Mitteleuropia and his family at the family seat Tawcester (pronounced Taster) Towers. Botto is as singularly lacking in brains as he is competent at cricker, while Twinks has a brilliant mind to complement her beauty and general omniscience. It is she who soon deduces how the murder was committed, and that it was part of a fiendish plot by agents of the usurping King, Vlatislav, to kidnap Sigismunde’s daughter Ethelinde – a ploy which Blotto and Twinks fail to foil, meaning they are forced to journey to Mitteleuropia on a rescue mission.

It may be that the increasing semi-seriousness, by Brett’s standards anyway, of the Fethering series, has left him feeling that he needs a wholly comic outlet – and so being utterly indefatigable he has launched yet another series. BLOTTO, TWINKS AND THE EX-KING’S DAUGHTER is both a parody – of Dornford Yates and no doubt many other inter-war thriller writers – and a homage to the prose among others of P.G.Wodehouse. As Brett can be a very funny writer when he so intends there are certainly passages here which are indeed of a highly comic nature. The word-play is often highly enjoyable and there are Laugh-out-Loud moments. So too are certain scenes within the book such as when Blotto is confronted by a vamp, but being utterly naïve completely fails to understand her attempts at seduction. As a parody it does accurately expose some of the absurdities and conventions of the books at which it aims in particular their zenophobia.

But it has to be said that this is a very light-weight affair. Is it enjoyable? Yes in a mild way. Is it funny? Yes (if you have that kind of sense of humour – which is, as always, a big if). Will it pass – quite literally – a pleasant hour or two? Yes. It may be held that these are satisfactory qualifications but even someone like myself who enjoys the utterly insubstantial, the chocolate mousses of mystery fiction, asks I think for a little more. And in terms of actually buying the book the honest critic, even while admiring and lauding Brett’s comic talent, can only recommend that a trip to the library would be more advisable.