A Shot in the Dark
By Lynne Truss
ISBN 978-1635572742
Publication Date: November 6, 2018


Review by Pam De Voe

Lynne Truss,  Shot In the Dark

Review by P.A. De Voe


I admit that I chose to review A Shot in the Dark by Lynne Truss because I so admire Eats, Shoots and Leaves. I thought anyone who could make a grammar book amusing and engaging must be able to write a good novel. A Shot in the Dark—a comedic, dark mystery—more than meets my expectations.

The tale begins in 1950s Brighton with a cast of delightfully irritating characters: such as the pompous Inspector Steine, the earnest but bumbling Sergeant Brunswick, the clever Constable Twitten, the endearing Mrs. Groynes, the unfathomable Bobby Melba, and the malodorous theatre critic A. S. Crystal. The story unfolds as a classic mystery–that is, as a detective story presented as a puzzle. At the same time, it gives the reader the sense of watching an old British radio show, one where the narrator intersperses funny and now-pay-attention side comments into the ongoing action. (Which as it turns out makes a lot of sense, because Truss also writes radio comedy-dramas.)

Throughout the book, the reader will probably solve the puzzle of who did what through a series of logical deductions rather early on. But that is not the point. A Shot in the Dark is as much a dance as a mystery. The dance involves the perception of reality. Who has the power to define what is true and what is not true? Whose version of the facts will emerge as the more credible and, therefore, believable? This question adds an exciting dimension to the classic mystery structure.

A Shot in the Dark is definitely a must-read for anyone who loves mysteries and has an adventurous spirit. I highly recommend it.

P.A. De Voe is an anthropologist and Asian specialist who writes historical mysteries and crime stories immersed in the life and times of Imperial China (Hidden, Warned, and Trapped). She’s also published short stories, From Judge Lu’s Ming Dynasty Case Files, in anthologies and online.