A new Fethering mystery is always a pleasure. Guilt at the Garage is Simon Brett’s twentieth novel in the Fethering series featuring crime-solving neighbours Carole and Jude, who live in the genteel, south coast village of Fethering––“a village of unimpeachable middle-class propriety.”
Each Fethering mystery can be relied upon for its intriguing plot and suitably satisfactory puzzle but, increasingly, for fans of the series, what is of greater importance is the developing account of the lives of its two lead protagonists, and the humorous and accurate portrayal of the bourgeois foibles displayed by the supporting cast of characters of Fethering and, in these regards, Guilt at the Garage more than lives up to expectations. It is one of the things I most enjoy about the Fethering series: like the village of Fethering itself, it is cosy, secure and unchanging.
So, it was with something of a shock that I read the very last line of Guilt at the Garage. With the crime solved and the latest case wrapped up, all of a sudden, an even bigger mystery was unveiled.
“But she wondered whether she believed in Fethering any more.”
The words sent a chill through me; they shook me to my core; unsettled my comfortable sense of complacency that Fethering was a small part of the fictional universe, which would forever remain impregnable to alteration; it must have been with a similar sense of shock that Carole first heard that a Starbucks was opening in the village.
The words that so shocked me were thought by the character Jude, but I couldn’t help wondering if they actually represented a more personal cry for help from the author Simon Brett. With twenty Fethering novels under his belt, had he had enough? Was there to be some fundamental upheaval amidst the occupants of High Tor and Woodside Cottage?
Once before in the series, Simon Brett moved the scene of investigation away from Fethering, with a radical departure when Jude and Carole holidayed together in Turkey––A Tomb in Turkey––and, for me, this was one of the weakest stories in the series. A Fethering mystery without Fethering just didn’t seem right.
I wait with trepidation now for the twenty-first novel in the Fethering mystery series; scared that it might be different; worried that the literary town-planners are on the horizon ready to flatten my long-held mental construct. They are emotions that are unfamiliar to me when I think of Fethering but, perhaps, that is exactly what Simon Brett was intending?
© Fergus Longfellow
Fergus Longfellow is shaken out of his position of complacency.