A mystery in a small seaside village in England. Sounds like Agatha Christie, right?
Well, yes, it does sound like Christie. But it’s actually Simon Brett.
Guilt at the Garage is a conventional English village mystery. Now don’t interpret “conventional” as an insult—it’s just a description. It could just as well have been written in 1920 as in 2020.
Actually, “conventional” isn’t quite the right word if you pay attention to details. A 1920 mystery wouldn’t contain supporting characters who are openly lesbian, or overt discussions of xenophobia, or a mention of chronic fatigue syndrome, or a prominent role for a controversy involving alternative medicine vs. NHS treatment. Guilt at the Garage has all of those.
I didn’t realize until I was halfway through that this is actually the 20th book in a series (one of Brett’s four series). I don’t think it mattered, as I never had the sense that I was missing some crucial information revealed earlier nor that I was being awkwardly told information didactically to make up for what I was missing. The first 60% of the novel is on the slow side—not annoyingly so, and this is after all a cozy—and then the action picks up a bit. But you’re not going to find the pace of a fast-moving thriller. As a cozy, we of course have amateur detectives, a village pub, and lots of gossiping local characters, all to be expected. The writing is smooth, the setting is effective, the plot is well-crafted.
All in all, a good book for a pandemic. And there’s really no need for the reader to know anything about car repairs (fortunately for me).