I have enjoyed all of the books in this series very much — and far more than I expected to. I grew tired of the Midsomer Murders TV series a long time ago, but the books are actually very different in tone and character from what the series became. They are very good novels of character with crime as their plot drivers. In Death of a Hollow Man, Barnaby is dragged along to an amateur dramatic performance and ends up investigating a dramatic death. However, at least the first third of the book is I have enjoyed all of the books in this series very much — and far more than I expected to.
However, at least the first third of the book is scene-setting and the establishing of characters, and it is this which makes the books such a pleasure for me. She writes very well with a fine understanding of her characters and their motivations and there is genuine psychological insight here. She paints them with insight and a penetrating wit, making this far more than the collection of rather hollow stereotypes which sometimes go to make up the characters in the TV programmes.
It is this which makes the books so worthwhile; she paints some scathing and sometimes very funny portraits but others with genuine compassion and depictions of goodness, all of which I found very realistic. As always with Caroline Graham, the plotting is very good and she weaves a beguiling spell which hooked me in. It's quite a long way from the slightly twee whodunit feel of the TV series — especially in the character of Sergeant Troy who is no loveable sidekick but a lecherous, ignorant bigot with a strong line in unfunny, unpleasant jokes.
The prose is a pleasure to read, with plenty of pithy phrases; it carries you along very nicely without ever getting in the way of the story.
I can recommend this very warmly as a very good, involving novel of character as well as being a very enjoyable crime mystery. Oh, I should never watch the dramatization of a novel if I'm planning to read it, because I actually knew the identity of the killer before I started. I love the Inspector Barnaby murder mysteries dramatized on the Biography channel, and they have renewed my interest in Caroline Graham's books which have just been sitting here, unread, on my shelves for years.
So on to this book: who would like it? Anyone who's followed the series on television would enjoy it; anyone who likes British mysteries w Oh, I should never watch the dramatization of a novel if I'm planning to read it, because I actually knew the identity of the killer before I started. Anyone who's followed the series on television would enjoy it; anyone who likes British mysteries would also like this one. It seems that on opening night, one of these people switched razors from the prop tray so that Esslyn, as Salieri, cuts his throat with a real razor in front of the audience at the end of the play.
Barnaby, who is in the audience because his wife is a member of CADS, takes charge immediately, along with his gripey, complaining sergeant, Troy. But it seems that pretty much everyone has a motive to kill Esslyn, so getting to the bottom of this mystery is tougher than it seems. Her husband is helping with painting the scenery.
Tom Barnaby finds himself with a difficult case of murder to investigate. I found this book absorbing reading because the plotting is excellent and the characters well drawn. I found the motivations convincing and the whole thing kept me guessing until almost the end. I worked out who had done it bit not how or why. I enjoy the touches of humour and the love hate relationship between Barnaby and his sidekick DS Troy with his overt prejudices and off colour jokes.
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I like the small town background where many things appear to be out in the open and yet it is all too easy for people to misinterpret things they have seen and people they know. I recommend this series if you like your crime novels in the classic mould with not too much on the page violence and bad language. Aug 12, Judy rated it liked it. An important part of the cultural life of many small towns is community theater and the Causton Amateur Dramatic Society of Causton, England is no exception. On the opening night of their production of Amadeus, the leading man grabbed a "safe" razor from the prop tray during a scene toward the end of the play and drew it across his throat in a very dramatic manner in full view of the audience.
Unfortunately, someone had removed the tape from the razor's edge and the actor bled to death on stage. As one member of the Dramatic Society, and a suspect, commented, "That's show business. Start the evening with Mozart, end up with Gotterdammerung". Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby was in the audience because his wife had a small part in the production. During his investigation, he is treated to a front-row seat to the egos, feuds, and intrigues that are such a part of community theater. It was apparent that the murderer was part of the production company and each member of that group had a real reason to remove that tape.
Thank you to Carol, one of my goodreads friends, for recommending Caroline Graham to me. I'm axious to read another one of her books soon. Mar 03, AngryGreyCat rated it really liked it. I have been on a Midsomer Murders binge lately. Being laid up off and on with my ankle injury, I have watched the whole series on Acorn TV and loved it. I finally decided to start reading the books. This is the second in the book series. The characters of Barnaby, Joyce, Cully and Troy were all here. Barnaby himself is a great protagonist and detective. The other characters, suspects and villains, are laid out with twists and turns of the plot including red herrings.
The sense of place is well developed, which is important in a village mystery. The reader gets a good feel for the social dynamics and character of the village. Highly recommended read, I just wish I would have read them first before watching the series, but they are enjoyable nonetheless. Sep 28, Katherine Clark rated it it was amazing.
This is the second in the Tom Barnaby series, and the second or third time I've read it. The first in the series didn't hold up that well, so I was nervous when I began this one, but oh, it is so wonderful. Graham does an amazing job developing fully-fleshed characters, even including fully-fleshed animal characters. I cared about what happened to these people.
The murder didn't occur until after page , and mythical no-no in mysteries, and that didn't matter to me. The stakes were the relat This is the second in the Tom Barnaby series, and the second or third time I've read it. The stakes were the relationships and wishes and goals of the characters.
I wanted to read to see what would happen and who would be affected.
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I love this book and look forward to the third. Jun 07, Katie added it. An enjoyable mystery! Even though I have watched the episode that is based on this book in the PBS series Midsomer Murders, the book was different enough to keep my attention and of course better than the show. Inspector Barnaby is a very likable character, and I enjoy the flaws that Troy has that are not included in the series. Jan 17, Daniel Weir rated it really liked it. What I found particularly good about this was, not the mystery of whodunit, but the characters and the problems they faced that had nothing to do with the murder.
View 2 comments. Apr 01, Melissa rated it liked it Shelves: sleuthing. Now that I finished all the seasons of Midsomer Murders on Netflix, I decided to go back and read the original books. Tom Barnaby is the original dad detective, he is a delight. And Caroline Graham does write in a very witty, almost Agatha Christie way. The adaptation from book to screen - which I think was done by Graham herself - is very different Now that I finished all the seasons of Midsomer Murders on Netflix, I decided to go back and read the original books.
I think it was a good choice for TV. This edition of the book is very cheaply and poorly typeset. Words are misspelled, copy editing mistakes abound. It was fun. Jul 20, Evelyn Morgan rated it really liked it Shelves: mysteries-thrillers. This is the second book in the Inspector Barnaby series by Caroline Graham, the series which Midsomer Murders is based on. I read book one several years ago. These books are hard to find in America and each one was found by accident at a book sale.
Graham is a wonderful writer and a very good one for murder mysteries. My only comment is that she has a vocabulary to equal PD James. I took to writing down words as I went to look them up. I must have found at least 25 of them. Having an ex-husb This is the second book in the Inspector Barnaby series by Caroline Graham, the series which Midsomer Murders is based on.
Having an ex-husband who took a theater degree in college and was involved in many amateur theatricals, I can vouch for the drama that goes on behind the scenes. Graham was spot-on with her characters, the director, the actors, the stage manager and set designers. I enjoyed reading the book, the solution was masterful, and I would like to read some more Barnabys in the future. The mystery involves a play, where the actor is murdered by slashing his own throat.
More than the mystery, I enjoy the quirky characters of a small English village. This completes the popsugar reading challenge for book with an ugly cover. Jun 22, Amra Alihodzic rated it it was amazing. WELL this is refreshing Mar 24, Suan Anderson rated it it was amazing. Another great murder mystery by Caroline Graham.
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What a contrast! The first book was written in a literate style, admittedly with many words I had to look up and I consider that I have a pretty good vocabulary , and some literary references including one from a 17th century playwright. I don't mind being challenged in this way, and I found that looking up the unfamiliar words and references was interesting.
This book went overboard -- in the writing, and in the characterization, and in the literary references. The whole book centered around an amateur theatrical production of Peter Shaffer's "Amadeus", which is a play that would be a challenge for any theatrical group, let alone this less than stellar one. I found the writing irritating -- instead of entertaining, like the previous book, it seemed to have poured it on to add more unnecessarily arcane words, lots of attempts at humorous phrases but rather too many, and also too arcane. I found the whole thing overwritten, perhaps in an attempt to make the book amusing, but I think that backfired and, to me, it made it just annoying and patronizing.
I know that readers of British murder mysteries of the Agatha Christie school expect their writing to be literate, but For example, not too many books use the word 'simulacrum'; this book uses it at least twice. Late in the book, there is an almost throw-away line that is basically a quote from Gilbert and Sullivan's "Pirates of Penzance" -- 'a policeman's lot is not a happy one', seemingly thrown in for another attempt a light humor and without attribution; you presumably 'just had to know'.
Normally, I like humor, but not when it's so all-encompassing, and done in such a patronizing way. Another reference, early on, was to "Martern aller Arten", which, if you look it up, means "Tortures of all kinds", and is an aria from Mozart's "The Abduction from the Seraglio".
That seems particularly apropos for this book -- both to Amadeus, and the way the book is written. It also means that not paying attention to the words and references in this book will cause you to miss out on the details, and the attempts at humor. Of course, you may not care Then there was the large and confusing set of people. I think there was over-characterization, too, with a large group of people the amateur theatrical group , who were uniformly unpleasant characters with a very few exceptions.
I suppose it was "character development", but it took until halfway through the book before the murder took place, by which time I was nearly ready to give up, not caring much who would be murdered or the identity of the murderer -- it could have been anyone, which I guess was the author's intent. There followed a lot of interviewing of theater people, all of whom seemed incapable of acting like reasonable people.
When Barnaby finally figures out the basics of how the crime was perpetrated, and by whom, the author does do a good job of not letting on until close to the end of the book. But the reader doesn't seem to be given much help in figuring it out; when an author leaves out some critical information until the very end, well, some readers of mysteries consider that cheating.
I was startled by the contrast between this book, and its predecessor. The first book was very enjoyable and effective, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. This one was overwritten to the point of annoyance, and I was glad to finish it; I did not enjoy it. I'll probably move on to the next book in the series to see how things move on -- whether they improve, or deteriorate, or stay in this mold. They will, presumably, have to simplify it, and remove a lot of references and arcane language.
Jan 28, Kyrie rated it really liked it Shelves: mystery.
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I'm fairly certain I read this book previously because parts seemed very familiar, but I didn't remember the murderer nor a large chunk of the ending. It made me think of Ruth Rendell's Inspector Wexford. Barnaby is a very human, likeable police officer. Since his wife is involved in the local theater, the suspects are all people he knows well. This mystery is the type I like best - an intriguing murder, lots of interesting suspects, and also lots of decent people.
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This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. A pretty good book, with excellent twists throughout, with the twist regarding the cookbook of fish recipes being something worthy of an Agatha Christie novel in my opinion. Only real gripe was that it took a while for the actual action to start, and at times it was difficult to keep track who was related in what way to who the further you got into the book. I didn't enjoy this as much as the first book. It took way too long for the murder to take place and although there was a focus on the characters I just couldn't connect to any of them and struggled to remember who was who.
However, unlike the first book I didn't manage to figure out who the killer was or why they had done it so I enjoyed the reveal. I love the TV series Midsomer Murders, so it was a pleasure to read one of books that inspired it. So many delightful characters and a story line that was most entertaining. Somehow there's always a murder wherever we find Inspector Barnaby or his wife Joyce! Oct 14, Mario rated it liked it.
However, the author certainly continues to surprise me. To begin, the pacing of the book is dramatically slow. So literally the first half of the book was dedicated to introducing the characters, their world, and crafting their personalities. I knew Graham likes to create detailed players in her mysteries but that seemed excessive.
The second half of the book is where the mystery is and, unfortunately, I think there are a lot of flaws with it. The suspense was also badly done. People would say or do things that are misinterpreted, rumors would be passed around, so-and-so would hear this-and-this with little actual confirmation. In particular, the most damning example of this all surrounded one character: David Smy. Additionally, one of the more dramatic scenes in the novel worked entirely because of this same misunderstanding.
David was in love with a girl and his father knew, but, apparently, despite speaking about it, not once was a name ever mentioned. From this, we get this absurd dramatic scene that is, moments later, revealed to be a simple misunderstanding that is easily resolved when David revealed the name of the girl.
There are many more scenes like this too. Often with literally a single sentence. So to summarize, the first half of the book was something I found myself fond of due to the endearing peculiarities of the characters involved but the actual mystery itself — and why I started reading this book — turned out to be pretty poor. How should I rate this mystery book then? I suppose the best I can say is that I myself did enjoyed it for the most part, but, overall, I think there are better mystery books out there. Rich in suspects, the novel is set in fictional Causton, a small provincial town not far from London.
This is a complex tale of jealousy and madness. Here the confined settings are an amateur theatre, a famous stage play and two provincial towns. They all mirror each other and are used to great effect as background for a murder that, at first sniff, doesn't appear to one at all, but merely an accident on stage. These small empires are ruled by entirely different types of Big Fish.
While Chief Inspector Barnaby rules the real world of provincial Causton, Harold the impresario rules Causton's small theatre. On stage, we have Peter Shaffer's villain Salieri and everybody's favourite enfant terrible, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, battling for leadership of a very different, but equally restrictive world, the 18th century court of Emperor Joseph and Salzburg. In a town with only a handful of shops, one bookshop and a couple of restaurants, it is hard to stand out, talented or not. We see young actors like Nicholas and Cully leave Causton for the world at large Cambridge and London , just as Mozart eventually left Salzburg to seek his fortune abroad.
The talented have a shot at eternal life. Hollow, meaning talentless or mediocre men and women, do not; all they can dream of is to become a Big Fish in a small pond. The jealousy this creates is the central theme. Where the Worlds of Make-Believe and Reality collide The plot revolves around a staging of playwright Peter Shaffer's famous play, Amadeus, by Causton's amateur dramatics society, of which Chief Inspector Barnaby's wife Joyce is a long-standing member.
Occasionally, Barnaby himself is drafted in to help with painting the scenery due to his skill with a paintbrush. Having known all the suspects for more than a decade is initially advantageous in a murder investigation; however, Chief Inspector Barnaby soon realises that knowing suspects intimately can get in the way of objectivity and hamper an investigation considerably. Reality and make-belief soon collide, as history repeats itself and another "hollow" man finds death. A Play within a Play For those who don't know Shaffer's famous play "Amadeus": 18th century composer Salieri, a life-long rival of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, is so consumed with envy that he plots the young composer's downfall and death.
On the surface, the two composers are competing for the "Big Fish" position in Salzburg and at Emperor Joseph's court, but what they are really competing for is a place in history. The play also suggests that Salieri may have actually poisoned Mozart, explaining the composer's mysterious illness and premature death at age Amadeus: the name means beloved by God. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's heavenly music gives the composer access to the realm of the Gods, and therefore eternity. Salieri's jealousy of Mozart drives the older man insane and ultimately, to suicide, as Salieri loses faith in God after a lifetime of devotion and a lifetime of mediocrity.
Salieri's music is only remembered today because of his involvement with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Historians still debate whether Salieri truly poisoned Mozart, or whether the older composer merely poisoned public opinion against Mozart. Shaffer's play is beautifully mirrored in the jealousies of the actors in Causton's theatre, where everybody hopes to be either director, leading man or leading lady, never mind if they've got the talent for the job or not.
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In the confined world of the amateur theatre it only has seats Caroline Graham stages her whodunit like a play and mirrors Shaffer's central theme and historical events in Salzburg in her own murder mystery. Noises off Noises off stage in this context mean Salieri-style intrigues and gossip, which drive Caroline Graham's plot. Inspector Barnaby's own brilliance is contrasted by his Sergeant's inability to detect his way out of a coffee cup another "hollow" man, who incidentally is also married to a "hollow" woman.
Barnaby is married to a once promising singer, Joyce, who gave up her career to be a policeman's wife and mother to talented actress daughter Cully. Now middle-aged, Joyce is reduced to be "noises off" and performs walk-on parts in the amateur dramatics society. Her lovely voice has been switched off by marriage and convention, not malice, but her fate seems to mirror that of the young composer Mozart.
Inspector Barnaby, ultimately also just a Big Fish in a small pond, effectively ended Joyce's career in the big wide world. Director's Cut The murder only happens after we have been introduced to the entire cast: the director, the leading man, the bit players and even the theatre cat - and when the "director's cut" finally happens in the midst of first night performance nerves and stage fright jitters, everybody assumes it was an accident that an actor cut his throat on stage. Except for Barnaby.
Krull has an impressive list of biographical books for younger readers. Her Lives of… series, illustrated by Kathryn Hewitt, really takes the reader into the times in which these historical figures lived. There are many familiar facts about these musicians, but putting them in context to the era, from their food to their friends, as well as some neighborhood gossip, does an excellent job of welcoming the young reader into their lives.
Brahms, for example, was often showing off his underwear to audiences, thanks to his forgetting to button his suspenders. Some of these anecdotes will be fun to share with younger kids reluctant to learn about composers remember, Mozart loved fart jokes. Lunday, has also written Secret Lives of both Artists and Authors, so she has a great knack for revealing the seedier edges around these seemingly enlightened minds.
It makes for some interesting, and sometimes hilarious, discussions. But those who want something a bit more interesting… should go to the orchestra. Lisa Kay Tate is a veteran feature writer with nearly 25 years experience in newspaper, magazine and freelance writing. She and her husband, a history and world geography teacher, live on the edge of "New Texico" where they keep busy raising their two geeklings and sharing space with their dog, Sirius Black, and cat, Loki. Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. Notify me of follow-up comments by email.
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