Today’s review is another return to the work of Delano Ames, this time from his Jane and Dagobert Brown series, which I love. Given the title there are no prizes for guessing where the Browns are next. Ames gets straight to the point in his opening chapter, which is set at a bullfight in Barcelona, where Jane witnesses the death of the matador, Denis St. John. It is presumed to be an unfortunate but not unanticipated accident, as St John had been acting jittery all afternoon and was not up to his usual bull fighting standard. But Dagobert of course thinks otherwise, especially when he hears that St John’s final word was madrecita (darling mother in Spanish). A car problem leaves the Browns in Barcelona, giving Dagobert all the excuse he needs to dig into St John’s death further. The next two days are action packed for the Browns, who certainly know how to fill their time in. The case which unfolds is quite complex, not in the how, which is dealt with rather swiftly, but in the who and why. Suspects abound unsurprisingly, including St John’s money focused fiancée and soon to be father in law; St John’s own relations, who have no qualms about stealing from each other and even the Browns own friends have suspicious connections to the deceased. After a very exhausting two days, where it seems more than one person is trying to prevent the Browns from investigating, events come to a head in a bar fight, which finally resolves the remaining aspects of the case.
As one reviewer put it: ‘I am very attached to Dagobert and Jane Brown.’ You can always rely on Dagobert for some bizarre and zany logic, which nevertheless always seems to work out and I think part of me does want to go on holiday with these two, just the once. After all I feel like once would be enough, given the antics those two get up to. Ames’ time in Spain definitely comes through in his descriptions of Barcelona, especially the Ramblas, where he recreates an intensity of the senses: sights, sounds, noises and smells. No wonder it seems almost too much for Jane. You also feel like you going beyond the tourist point of view of Spain. The characterisation as always is memorable and it was particularly interesting to see how Ames depicts the ambiguous and complex attitude of the spectators at the bullfight. The choice of culprit definitely took me by surprise and I am not sure how easy it is to identify them. However, in one particular aspect of the solution there is a very glaringly obvious but also very sneaky clue, which being me I completely missed. Whilst there was much less metafictional humour in this tale, (whilst earlier works have more of this), it was still a story which brought a smile to my face and I enjoyed how Ames made you feel like you were there amongst it all. So all in all this is another entertaining read by Ames. I don’t think he has really managed to disappoint me yet.
Vintage Mystery Scavenger Hunt Item: Performer