“Murder by Milk Bottle (A Constable Twitten Mystery)” by Lynne Truss. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2020. 320 pages, $17. (Paperback)
After two high-profile murder cases and a packed summer, Constable Twitten is hoping it will be quiet at work for a while. However, all his rest is interrupted when three bodies are found, all murdered with the same odd weapon: a milk bottle. It appears the three victims have no connection except the odd choice of murder weapon. There is a beauty queen hopeful, a BB radio personality and a patrolman. Constable Twitten and Sergeant Brunswick are unsure where to start, and Inspector Stein is no help. The city of Brighton goes on high alert, and the local newspaper is full of stories about a killer on the loose. The police are determined to solve the case.
At first, I was a little slow to get into this novel. The humor just seemed a little off to me, or the characters just a tad too overdone. However, I am glad that I gave it a chance, because the further I got into it, the funnier I found it. You don’t have to have read the first two books to be able to follow along with the third, but it will spoil the stories of both to an extent. I would suggest reading them in order. Otherwise, you ruin one of the running jokes/plot points that brings quite a bit of hilariousness to the story. It also adds a nice flair. I liked “Murder by Milk Bottle” so much that I went back and read the first one and just started the second one. I can also say that if you like audio books, the narrator for the audio of “A Shot In The Dark,” Matt Green, does a really good job! The second book is “The Man That Got Away.”
The stories take place during 1957. The 1950s are really well represented. From the entertainment, to the news, to the language, it is like a blast from the past. With the boardwalk featuring prominently, it’s fun to listen to the Punch and Judy shows that occasionally make an appearance, or the numerous ice cream and soda shops that are talked about. A large part of it is a piece of life we left behind us. The BBC makes an appearance and we get to hear a comedy trivia show where Inspector Stein is trying to guess the careers of guests who come before them. Last but not least is the society of the 1950s, from the schools to social graces required.
The third book really lets you get to know the characters more deeply. As the first two books establish the basics between each person in the novel, the third is able to give us more backstory on each one. It is greatly enjoyable to see Constable Twitten before he became a cop, as well as to get some insight into Sergeant Brunswick’s odd personality. Mrs. Groynes, the charlady, is perhaps my favorite character. With her backstory, and all the things you learn about her, she is charming, funny and quite witty. It’s such a great twist to the story and I love it absolutely. It adds an extra layer of humor as well.
Lynne Truss should be commended – although this book revolves around solving a crime, it is somehow hilarious. Not two genres I would have put together myself, but I find that I love it. Constable Twitten is trying to decide if perhaps the murders are connected to the launch of a new Milk Bar on the boardwalk, and their new slogan “DRINKA PINTA MILKA DAY” which gave me giggles every time I read it. Overall, it is a very enjoyable novel.
Truss is not only a writer, but also a journalist. She started out as a literary editor. She has written three novels and radio comedy dramas, which shows in “Murder by Milk Bottle.” Truss won Columnist of the Year when working with the Women’s Journal. Now she is a book reviewer for the Sunday Times of London and on BBC Radio 4. She lives in Brighton, England, the setting of her novels.
– Reviewed by Fallon Willoughby, first-year experience instructor, Southcentral Kentucky Community & Technical College.