Continuing my theme of let’s see what books we could read as adults if we wanted a break from Blyton, I have decided to look at Too Many Cooks by Marina Pascoe. This is the second book in the series of Bartlett and Boase Mysteries but I decided to review it because I have recently finished reading it (well listening to it) and I can’t quite remember all the twists and turns of the first book in the series. So shall we take a look?
Bartlett and Boase
Set in post world war one, we’re in slightly different time zone than Enid Blyton’s mysteries, which are set more in the post world war two period but the detective methods are similar and Bartlett and Boase have all the characteristics to unravel a mystery that the children do. The lack of ‘scientific’ research at their fingertips allows me to draw comparisons between the two authors and the different series.
George Bartlett is a inspector, moved down from London for the good of his wife, Caroline’s, health and runs the small Falmouth constabulary alongside his trusty local boy, Archibald Boase. Between them they make a formidable team, even though they are very different. Bartlett thinks of Boase as a substitute son to the one he lost in France during the war and the two rub along well. Boase is included in the Bartlett family life quite a bit by this novel because he is stepping out with Bartlett’s daughter Irene. Together life in Falmouth is supposed to be a bit of an easy ride for hard working Bartlett, after London life, but it doesn’t turn out that way.
George Bartlett is an easy to like character, devoted to his wife daughter Irene, and faithful hound Topper, he muddles through a lot of Falmouth life, with a rough London edge to him. In most novels this would have made him an outsider to the locals but he seems to fit in alright, and everyone, apart from his superintendent, like and respect him.
Archie Boase is a young man, living in rooms in Falmouth with an appetite to rival that of the Famous Five – he always seems to be eating pork pies!- and is eager to impress and get on with everyone. He’s a fine copper, and has a good knack at seeing things from a different perspective. Boase works well, and respects his superior, Bartlett, usually bowing to his superior knowledge but at the same time he’s not afraid to speak his own mind. Never a bad thing in such a close knit dynamic.
About the Story
So now I’ve given you an idea of Bartlett and Boase as characters, maybe it’s best to look at the story now, and see if I can get you interested in them.
The mysteries that I’ve read (Empty Vessels and Too Many Cooks) turn into great rambling, difficult to solve mysteries. There are curve balls thrown at every chance and there are so many twists and turns I really have to be paying attention to what I’m listening to to be able to understand how someone got from A to C without passing B, as it were.
My best advice about Bartlett and Boase is, forget Agatha Christie, forget G.K Chesterton, and anyone similar. What you have here with Bartlett and Boase are two policemen, doing their job and having difficult circumstances, but they have human nature in the way. Especially when it comes to Too Many Cooks because there is so much deceit that goes on with one of the characters because she’s worried about the consequences that will catch up with her. If you learn anything from this book, its that self-preservation always gets in the way.
Too Many Cooks is a murder story, there is definitely no way around it, because of the nature of the kill(s). I won’t go into too many details but a body is found and there’s a young women who always seems to draw Bartlett and Boase’s attention and something never really feels quite right with her. Between the detectives doing their best to figure out a murder, find a missing man, and chase this strange girl who seems to be everywhere they turn, your head is so full of information that its hard to know which way to turn.
I cannot fault the writing, quite frankly, because it takes a skilled writer to be able to work with so many threads in a plot and bring them all together successfully, which Pascoe does manage to do…well almost. I did feel a bit jilted at the ending because it wasn’t the resolution I would have liked, but I think that actually adds to the book and the realness of the story. Things don’t always work out nicely which is…ok and because we’re reading adult books now, we can’t expect the nice happy endings that Blyton would give us. I know that is one of the reasons we still do read Blyton, but hey you might still enjoy Bartlett and Boase.
Set against the backdrop of the port town of Falmouth, where author Marina Pascoe actually lives, the atmospheric descriptions of the place are well worth a read. Pascoe also manages to convey that the police investigation takes a lot of time, and leads and information can be slow. I think sometimes you lose this in a more fast paced novel, but that does not make it any less absorbing. With cultural additions, such as Egyptology rearing its head and having a large part to play in the story, and things such as dances and clothing being so accurately described and portrayed you really feel as if you are back in 1920s Falmouth. Always a good mark of a proper expert.
Why read it?
I realise I may not have entirely sold you this book, but I can promise you, it will keep you hooked and desperate for more. The twists, turns and amazing things that come out of them are worthy of Blyton and Christie. You should really give these books a go, even if you’ve been put off by my review. Smooth reading, with a wonderfully vibrant 1920s backdrop.
Let me know your thoughts below!