The Man That Got Away
Bloomsbury, 2019 (2019)
Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle
t's 1957. Constable Twitten is young, 23, and has only been on the Brighton Police Force for a few weeks, but he has already earned a name for himself by publicly denouncing Mrs. Groynes the charlady '
as a criminal mastermind responsible for a massive network of underworld operators in Brighton as well as for cold-blooded murder.
is boss, Inspector Steine, and his co-worker, Sergeant Brunswick, are appalled by this, and refer to him as
Clever Clogs Twitten
. As we read
The Man That Got Away
, however, we begin to realize that Twitten is the only one of the three who sees what's really going on in the police station. He's hampered by the fact that regardless of what he discovers, he's certain that no one will believe him, and the facts do seem weirdly unbelievable to the reader.
his is a romp of a mystery. There are so many clues and so much strange activity that it takes careful reading to keep up with it all, but the result is rewarding. Inspector Steine is so wrapped up in his own world and so easily distracted by the pastries and tea that Mrs. Goynes offers him to distract him from real events, that he misses blatant clues that even Sergeant Brunswick has noticed. Also, Steine thinks that Twitten is mentally troubled because of his attitude to Mrs. Groynes, so he tests him every morning, asking him whether he's come to his senses about the charlady yet.
hen Sergeant Brunswick goes undercover in a band at the Black Cat night club, which is run by a family that is suspected of being responsible for the murder of a famous person, we learn that the other members of the band are all undercover as well. They are reporting to Scotland Yard, MI5, Mrs. Groynes, Interpol, and the man who actually is responsible for the murder. We are told, '
If only they had worked together! But instead, each of them believed he was the only cuckoo in the nest.
' Only the trombonist was '
not living a double life
,' and when his wife asked him about the job he'd tell her that '
it's really boring ... It's the most boring job in the world. And the other guys: what a bunch of stiffs!
s you might expect from the author of
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
, there are many references to the English language. We hear a lot of British slang, cockney slang, and a frequent reference to a book,
by Nancy Mitford that tells about the difference in various words used by upper class and non-upper class English people. These words are referred to in the book as U or non-U words, such as looking glass, which is a U word or mirror, which is non-U. This becomes an important clue.
he book is a wonderful spoof of mysteries, clueless police, detectives who aren't ever believed, wax museums, language differences, and women who aren't taken seriously, even though they might be the main drivers of evil-doing. Constable Twitten is a marvel, and Mrs. Groynes is perfect.
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