Friday, September 27, 2013

Takeaway: The Corpse at the Haworth Tandoori (1998), by Robert Barnard

yes, there really is a tandoori 
It's fun to count the influences on the late Robert Barnard's retro-titled The Corpse at the Haworth Tandoori.  I spotted Agatha Christie (naturally), P. D. James, Ruth Rendell and Val McDermid.

Sadly, the title is is a throwaway, because neither the Bronte tourist magnet town of Haworth nor the Tandoori, where a dead body is found in the boot of a car, plays much of a role in the novel after the opening chapters.

Barnard's series detective Charlie Peace quickly traces the corpse--which looks to be that of a young Irish street singer, Declan O'Hearn--to a very odd little community devoted to a brilliant, elderly painter, Ranulph Byatt.

The novel then shifts to detail the preceding months that Declan spent with the community, as a sort of valet-assistant to Byatt, who suffers from crippling arthritis, before it goes back again to the investigation of the murder.

the American edition by Scribner
is altogether too cutesy-poo
The study of a difficult great artist immediately reminded me of Agatha Christie's wonderful novel Five Little Pigs (1942).

Additionally, the closed circle community of rather warped individuals devoted to a charismatic, cultish leader reminded me of works by P. D. James and Ruth Rendell, particularly The Black Tower (1975) and A Fatal Inversion (1987).  But then there's also Val McDermid....

It seems the corpse, "naked except for a pair of white underpants," was physically restrained and strangled, suggesting sexual pathology in the manner of McDermid's The Mermaids Singing (1995). Barnard may have a reputation as a cozy writer, but this plot element was not cozy!

the British edition by HarperCollins
better captures the sinister aspect
of the novel's plot
Unfortunately, the actual puzzle plot of this novel is not very interesting.

There is one surprising twist (which also vitiates some of the emotional pull of the novel), but there is not much of surprise in culpritude. Most of the mystery is pretty clearly signposted by the author.

Still, Tandoori is smoothly written and it makes an interesting read.  I don't believe Robert Barnard was capable of writing drab prose.

However, I'll be reviewing what I think may be a better Charlie Peace novel this weekend: The Bones in the Attic (2001).  See you again soon!


  1. I've never read any of the Charlie Peace books, but I've enjoyed all of the Robert Barnard books I've read. I look forward to reading more of them someday.

  2. Shame this wasn't a better entry in the series Curt but did enjoy your review (and reminds me that I have yet to read any mCDermind - seems impossible, I know ...). I'm going to reviewing A FATAL ATTACHMENT, the second (proper) Peace novel, quite soon as I managed to unearth it from the piles of books that I have yet to shelves in my new place

  3. Or even McDermid - apologies for the bizarre typo