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Sunday 15 January 2023

‘What’s Going On At the Whitler?’ by Alison Mukherjee 

Published by The Book Guild Ltd,
28 September 2022.
ISBN: 978-1915122-74-2 (PB)

Tia works in the archives section of the Whitler Gallery.  Her son has asked her to look after granddaughter Bindu for half-term.  Slightly reluctantly, Tia has agreed but things are not going well.  After a fractious visit to the swimming pool, she takes Bindu to the Gallery, which offers specific activities for children.

Robert, son of unhappy parents, lives on his own.  Keen to move on from his boring job in a factory, he is looking for a fulfilling occupation, preferably one that involves taking risks.  A visit to the job centre persuades him that he has to make his own way and he decides to follow his father’s example and lead a life of crime.  After watching a programme about stolen works of art, he thinks that this is the area for him and visits the Whitler’s portrait gallery to begin his research. 

Tia and Bindu also visit the gallery, where Douglas (another member of the Whitler staff) introduces himself and proceeds to captivate Bindu as he talks about the individuals in the portraits.  This success encourages the recently-widowed Douglas to invite them to come on one of his tours, much to Bindu’s delight.  And after they leave the gallery a most intriguing conversation takes place…..

Robert develops his plans and steals a portrait from the gallery, though not without some problems.  His crime has unforeseen consequences, particularly the partnership that develops between Douglas and Tia as they try to work out what has happened and retrieve the painting.

This detective story doesn’t need warnings about violence, language, etc.  It is well paced, with an interesting cast of characters, an element of fantasy that works well, a satisfying blend of crime and life in general, and some happy outcomes.  The final pages suggest that this might be the first in a series - it would be fun to see how Tia and Douglas get on.
Reviewer: Jo Hesslewood
Other books by this author:  Nimar Babu’s Bride, An Untimely Frost, Isabella’s Book, Is That a Paintbrush?

After graduating, Alison Mukherjee went to India as a volunteer teacher, continuing to live there for eight years before returning to settle in England with her Bengali husband and children. Her working life has been divided between teaching in secondary and higher educational establishments, mostly in the area of Religious Studies, and as a Local Authority social worker. In 2022 she was awarded a PhD in translation studies.

Jo Hesslewood.  Crime fiction has been my favourite reading material since as a teenager I first spotted Agatha Christie on the library bookshelves.  For twenty-five years the commute to and from London provided plenty of reading time.  I am fortunate to live in Cambridge, where my local crime fiction book club, Crimecrackers, meets at Heffers Bookshop.  I enjoy attending crime fiction events and currently organise events for the Margery Allingham Society.

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