Who killed the Reggie?

28th August 1998 at 01:00
BE A FALLING LEAF. By Bob Bibby. Pounds 5.99 plus Pounds 1 pp from Pierrepoint Press, 64 Hallfield Road, Layerthorpe, York YO3 7XQ

Ever wanted to put cyanide in an OFSTED inspector's coffee? Well, here's the story of someone who did - albeit in Bob Bibby's imagination.

The caretaker of a fictional GM comprehensive in the very real town of Tamworth opens up one morning in the middle of an inspection to find the registered inspector slumped dead across his desk. Quickly on the scene are Detective Chief Inspector Tallyforth and his faithful assistant Sergeant Georgina ("George") Elliott.

Chief among the suspects is the head, Brian Pickevance, who has a convoluted personal life in which his deputy, Pearl Bowen, plays an active part. What might the Reggie have found out about them and their doings? What might have been deleted from his Toshiba laptop?

The book cleaves to the conventions of detective tales: the grumpy chief inspector has a failed marriage, and there is a hint of something developing between him and his assistant, despite their obvious incompatibility. In this genre, such devices are not so much cliches as expected ingredients.

The author is a former teacher and currently a registered inspector. The feeling of authenticity which this generates means that teachers, especially, will want to read on and find out whodunit.

Nevertheless, there are faults of detail. Good dialogue is very difficult to write, and there are times in this book when it does not rise from the page. The transliteration of the caretaker's Black Country accent, ("An' there wuz a couplea rahnders gimes...") is particularly irritating. Detailed descriptions of meals pall after a while, even the one set in an undoubtedly real Balsall Heath balti house. (" 'Motive again, George,' said Tallyforth, picking up the last crumbs of his samosas with his fingers.") On the author's love affair with the music of Van Morrison, I make no comment, except to point out that the title comes from a Van Morrison song.

Tallyforth and George are, clearly, intended to have a continuing life, and it will be interesting to see how they measure up in a different setting.

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