The Case of the Not-So-Fair Trader (A Richard Sherlock Whodunit) - Jim Stevens

Really, how can you pass by a book where the detective is called "Richard Sherlock" and is described as a "Reluctant Dick"?  It has to be worth at least a smile.


So I bought it, started reading it and wondered if my liking for wordplay had led me astray. "The Case of the Not-So-Fair Trader" is so lightly written and so under-described that I struggled to get traction with it.


Then I realised that it was my expectations, rather than the book itself, that were holding me  back. I thought I'd bought a novel. In reality I'd bought textual television.

The dialog was fun and skillfully done. Each chapter had a witty title and at least two or three smile-worthy moments.


A slightly scatty, ensemble cast was being assembled, in an "Season One, Episode One sort of way, to do the detecting: Richard Sherlock - divorced dad, fired ex-cop, disgruntled insurance investigator with an obsessive eye for detail; Tiffany: a rich young woman  side-kick, with no understanding of a world in which the phrase "I can't afford it" applies to her, an obsession with her looks but a good heart and a strong desire to learn - as long as it doesn't interfere with her spa days; two lazy but talented cops, willing to let their ex-colleague, Richard Sherlock, solve their case for them, and Sherlock's two cute daughters who offer random insights into the case and make their father more human.


Once I relaxed into this TV-on-the-page, I began to enjoy myself and get into the whodunnit aspect of the book. Talk about complicated. Jim Stevens doesn't cheat but I guarantee that you won't guess then denouement. The best thing about the plot was that it gave lots of opportunity for humour at the expense of all those rich folks who make their wealth without lifting a finger that all of us love to hate.


By the end of the book I couldn't decide whether I had read a "novelisation" (horrible word) of a TV script or whether Jim Stevens was the new P.G.Wodehouse. Either way, I knew I was going to be reading more. "The Case of the Moomah's Moolah" is already in my To Be Read pile.