Psycho by the Sea

Fans of the Constable Twitten series have cause to rejoice--and, as always, worry a little, too. In the incessantly amusing Psycho by the Sea, the lunatics are still running the insane asylum that is 1957 Brighton, England, at least as conceived by mystery writer (Cat Out of Hell; The Man That Got Away) and punctuation czar (Eats, Shoots and Leaves) Lynne Truss.

In the fourth title of the series, Constable Peregrine Wilberforce Twitten has been with the Brighton Police for three months--long enough to have learned that his two superiors are imbeciles. Only Twitten has deduced that the station's charlady, Mrs. Groynes, is a criminal mastermind, although he lacks proof. This may change after he is given an envelope containing a photograph of Mrs. Groynes with London gang boss Terence Chambers, who was recently shot dead by Inspector Steine. Right now, however, the police's top priority is locating Geoffrey Chaucer, an escapee from a psychiatric hospital with an unfortunate habit of murdering cops. ("In the annals of crime," muses the novel's omniscient narrator, "it's surprising how few violent criminals have shared their names with those of the great English poets.")

Once again, Truss has some fun with midcentury preoccupations; figuring into her rewardingly elaborate plot are the "new" science of motivation research, a "futuristic" electric kettle and one dangerously overzealous Freudian. If P.G. Wodehouse had written a mystery starring the Keystone Kops, it would have read something like Psycho by the Sea, but it might not have been as funny. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

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