Posted by: quicksandtimerbookreviews | May 3, 2013

Barrett, Patrick: Cuthbert: How Mean Is My Valley?

006Yet again Patrick Barrett entertains us with the lovable Cuthbert, undertaker, theatre impressario and supposed farmer of the Valley, an idyllic, rural backwater as yet untouched by modern life. Thus when progress dumps itself in the grounds of former Mandrake Hall, whose misfortune it was to be burned to the ground, all hell’s let loose in the village; but not before Percy the hearsay gardener gets caught up in the earth mover then lands at Cuthbert’s door seeking shelter since the shed that was his home also fell victim to the flames. Of course our protagonist is well ahead of the game for he’s already received the letter from his old family firm of solicitors warning him the Mandrake Hall site had been sold. Time for action, a plan must be hatched to stop this evil development which will change the place forever. Cuthbert is soon wrong-footed in his mission to resist change when someone all too familiar comes crashing through his house on four wheels. Thus it turn out the enemy is strengthened by a pair of female antagonists, cleverly used by Barrett to draw out the naivety and vulnerability of Cuthbert and Percy, becoming a vehicle for some great humour at the same time as as adding tension to the plot. As the plans emerge so do the familiar characters from Barrett’s first book ‘Shakespeare’s Cuthbert’, each quirky and well drawn, each adding their own particular slant to the humorous development of the story as it progresses in a well defined battle which though totally ludicrous is almost coherent in its planning and truly born of the simple rationalisations of the main protagonists. With well-executed humour the story twists and turns producing not a few surprises and certainly for me the conclusion was unexpected.

I enjoyed this book, which, whilst it allowed for some characters to indulge in very funny retrospective tales enabling further character development, this was fairly incidental and didn’t obscure the plot in any way. I found it to be less frenetic than the first tale, though still slap-stick and very funny. It is brilliantly constructed, though still concentrated and it’s well worth giving some time to ponder the events to allow for the full appreciation of the happenings. Barrett is an astute observer and cleverly uses many angles to generate humour, not least of which is to humanise not only animals (Cuthbert’s crow is a hoot!) but in this story also the machinery. It’s sheer slapstick, which, if you love, like me, you can’t fail to enjoy. I can but highly recommend this book.

ISBN   147762127X         EAN    978-1477621271

Publisher:   Taylor Street Publishing   2012

Reviewer: Margaret Henderson Smith

Copyright – all rights reserved

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