- Shaun Baines
The Slayings in Sydenham by Alice Castle
The story centres on Beth, a lovable character with a gift for sniffing out trouble. She is the perennial outsider; someone who wants to do her best, but never quite achieves it. Beth is a ramshackle collection of worries, doubts and neuroses, but what shines through is her sincerity. When an estate agent is murdered, she is compelled to find the killer.
The story is set against the backdrop of a house move and provides the first plot trigger. The observations on the stresses of house moving are scalpel sharp, making the writing all the more relatable and adding a new dimension to the tale.
The author has captured the dynamics of the upper middle class, together with their thwarted ambitions to climb higher and their drive to supress those below them. It is an ugly picture filled with insecurities and jealousies – the perfect motivation for grisly murders – but it reflects well on Beth, who doesn't belong in that set.
There is a certain joy in seeing those characters being skewered to the point of ridiculousness by the author.
The Slayings in Sydenham feels like more than a murder mystery. It is part thriller, part social satire and with a touch of knock-about comedy. There is certainly plenty to be gleaned between these pages. It is available worldwide on Amazon and in the UK here.