Death at the Belvedere, Sue Williams
The fourth book in the Cass Tuplin mystery series, set in the dryland farming areas of Victoria, somewhere sort of north west of Bendigo (I think), in the fictional town of Rusty Bore, with a takeaway that always makes me think of Wycheproof. (There's nothing whatsoever in these books that makes you think Rusty Bore is anything other than completely fictional and I've no idea why that's been in my head since the opening novel..., but I digress.)
Which I think is probably encouraged by reading the Cass Tuplin series - she of (as it turns out in this novel), "a lot of moments spent". A couple that seemed particularly prescient:
"reflecting on why it is that I allow myself to be pushed around by Helen"
"considering telling the truth. The actual truth, the sheer unslippery relief of it... No I couldn't tell the truth. Not without a lot of extra lying".
This time around it's her sister Helen that seems to be in a lot of trouble, what with her alleged (by her) boyfriend dying after a fall from his balcony, with Helen on CCTV leaving the apartment around the same time. But there's something in that apartment that Helen wants back and Cass is just the sort of person that can determinedly digress herself into a whole heap of trouble, even more so in DEATH AT THE BELVEDERE where things quickly go pear-shaped and dangerous. But then what would you expect from a recovery mission that starts out with a man in his 90's and Cass; a bus trip to Melbourne; two pale blue boilersuits; a purple feather duster; a small jar of Vegemite and a retractable ski pole. And no, that's not some weird sort of bush sex scene, but you'll have to read the novel to find out more.
Queue the sort of mayhem and mundane that comes with this series as Cass lurches from staid and ordinary takeaway shop owner, to spurned woman; dodgy motorist to mother (mother-in-law and reasonably soon-to-be grandmother) with a sideline in spurious investment schemes in questionable research labs; to a scientist, break-in specialist and ... well investigator ... even though she'd been warned off / sworn off that sort of behaviour.
Anyway, as you can probably tell - it's madness. And not just because the whole thing seems to centre around that research lab and their project for extracting drugs from platypus milk. All fun and games until a young woman connected to Helen's (alleged) boyfriend then goes missing, and the whole story starts to emerge.
In the process of getting to the truth of what the hell is going on, and recovering Helen's much lamented possession, you're going to be sucked into some industrial espionage and blackmail; some unusual "car" chases; the theft of multiple handbags and mobile phones; a bit of assault and battery; a woman that's getting about armed with a sawn-off star picket; and a scene in the now defunct Melbourne Star, which is resolved in the most unlikely manner.
Slapstick in spades needless to say. Which is the point of this series. Cass is well-meaning, clever and daft as a brush all at the same time, often with the emotional maturity of a teenager on too many sugary drinks. Her eldest son (policeman / come stick in the mud) is constantly irritated and embarrassed by her, the youngest worried about her welfare (and sanity) and caught up in the excitement of the birth of his first child - not enough that he doesn't leap in and get involved in Cass's lunatic schemes with more than a bit of gusto though. Love interest Leo is still around, sort of, and that whole scenario gets complicated when he becomes ill, after Cass realises she doesn't want to move to Bendigo permanently and they can never seem to hold a conversation about the important things.
DEATH AT THE BELVEDERE. How to describe it? A lot crazy, quite mad at points. And enormous fun. Hugely entertaining fun.
It’s a mostly normal Friday evening in the Rusty Bore Takeaway. Cass Tuplin’s cleaning down the grill when her glamorous sister Helen walks in, all bones in an Italian-weave suit and the kind of state that calls for the full comfort: double bacon cheeseburger with extra chips.
It’s man trouble as usual. But this time it turns out the trouble is less emotional and more fatal. Helen’s boyfriend has been pushed off the rooftop terrace of his Fitzroy apartment, and Helen’s trying not to become a person of interest. She’s also trying to retrieve something rare and valuable from Ben’s place—which is where Cass comes in.
Cass doesn’t do investigations anymore, of course, being unlicensed. And she’s not particularly keen on breaking into a crime scene, even if it’s not strictly breaking when you’ve got a key.
On the other hand, Helen is her only sister. And she has been getting Cass into trouble for more than forty years. Why stop now? But this time Helen’s little problem will drop Cass into deeper trouble than ever before.