Tangled Web UK Review September 2000
Say it with Murder by
hbk out May 00
Published by Constable
This is the eighteenth novel by Emma Page, whose track record also includes short stories and radio scripts. The story is a tortuous tale of family and friends, with a large dramatis personae which almost needs a card-index to keep track of. the names. Two of the cast are found dead seventy-nine pages into the story, slumped across the dining-room table, and another prime mover exits later on in the book. The action takes place somewhere in England, with a setting which seems small-town and suburban-rural in nature. The almost obligatory DCI and DS slog away at the investigation, a la Morse and Lewis, but there is a palpable air of Mills and Boon about the whole book.
The back of the dust-jacket has laudatory extracts from reviews in all the 'heavies', the TLS, the FT, the T, the ST and Observer. Maybe I should give up reviewing, as I just cannot agree with them, unless the books to which they refer are very different from this one. Knowing only too well of all the drudgery that goes into writing a novel, I am loath to snipe at a fellow labourer, but in my senile opinion the style is stiff and sometimes stilted, reminiscent of a long school essay. On the first page, seven sentences, six of them consecutive, begin with the word 'She' - and in the first two chapters, there are only two lines of dialogue, the rest being solid text. Each of the multitude of characters are minutely described in turn, with a personal and family history, reading rather like a series of job applications. For the Times Literary Supplement to compare her with Agatha Christie is quite frankly ludicrous, as whatever faults Aggie had in terms of authenticity, she was a supremely easy read. Sorry, but this was a book I could have easily put down, but one man's (sorry, person's}meat and all that!
- Author of the highly acclaimed Crowner John series set in Medieval Devon)