Today’s book review of a mystery novel is brought to you by yours truly, Morgen Bailey. If you’d like your book reviewed or to send me a book review of another author’s book, see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.
The Funny Business of Life by Jenny Worstall
We travel back in time to investigate the mystery, meeting a host of colourful personalities along the way, including the bumbling Director of Music Lancelot Prokofiev, the predatory French teacher Celeste Dubonnet, Brunhilda the chocolate-loving music secretary, Dorian the sixth former who can understand complicated mathematics but forgets the day of the week and the egotistical conductor, Tristan Proudfoot.
Demons are wrestled and surprises abound before we return to Bonfire Night for the final revelation of a dramatically altered future.
‘The Funny Business of Life’ is a not entirely serious murder mystery and is the second book by Jenny Worstall in the ‘Sing with the Choir’ series. The opening scene is set in 2014, eleven years after the end of the romantic comedy ‘Make a Joyful Noise’ (Book 1 in the ‘Sing with the Choir’ series). Both books can be read as standalone titles.
I’m not usually a fan of prologues but this one is very short – less than a Kindle page – and brings us the murder as it happens before chapter one takes us ten months earlier (7th January 2014* rather than 5th November 2014).
We meet the characters – all music teachers – at a staff meeting and what felt like a writing group (I’ve chaired and attended many such sessions over the years). While there are a few characters early on, they’re all entertaining in their own way and I especially liked the term ‘Teflon Man’ and we’re soon told why. We can feel sorry for Xander and his stutter, and Brunhilda’s Harry being so poorly. (Aren’t the names brilliant!)
Our main character though is piano teacher, and fan of Cat Stevens and Bohemian Rapsody, Miriam and we get to know her better in chapter two as she heads off to the pub – the brilliantly named The Shark & Fiddle – with friend and fellow villager, Robert.
As the year moves on, we meet other characters including Brunhilda (whose name I felt a little cumbersome at times and would have thought someone would have shortened it or given her a nickname) and her husband Harry).
The teachers head off to London (and hour and a quarter from St Celia’s) which, as you would expect, doesn’t go without a hitch.
A couple of chapters later we meet the victim, Tristran, and even after just a couple of pages, I’d want to murder him too. :)
The months pass by and we have snapshots of a few of the characters, some endearing and some suitably dark, many entwined. An interesting weave of lives.
I guessed one of the major reveals at the end of chapter eight (just under halfway through the book) but apart from Tristran being a waste of space, I’d not guessed why the prologue happened the way it did until the last fifth of the book. There was a scene where Miriam goes back to Ireland which felt too much like a cliché and reminded me of Philomena (and wondered if the noise upstairs could be heard then the noise downstairs could be by those upstairs but a mere technicality). The subject was well handled so forgivable.
Once the main mystery is revealed it’s so cleverly done so that, after the book had finished, I went back to the prologue and realised how clever it was.
And now for writers…