“Just to Help Him Out and To Help Him on His Way” was a cheerful murder mystery that kept me intrigued with subtle wit, gentle humour and amusing anecdotes. A twisting plot line and a rather affable protagonist ensured that this book was an enjoyable read.
The book follows the story of James Hunt, a small town solicitor who gets ensnared in a messy dispute about a Will. Jim, I’m pleased to say, was a marvellous main character. Clever, intelligent, and a fan of thinking slanderous thoughts (to the delight of the reader), he was everything a hero should be. Jim really brought the story to life – but he was by no means the only successful character in the book. “Just to Help Him Out and To Help Him on His Way” was chock full of characters of varying degrees of importance, but for once, this wasn’t a bore. Ernest Marlin explored each character in depth, diving into their little idiosyncrasies with a devilish level of detail and pawing painstakingly though their private lives so that the reader could understand each and every one of them. This is especially important in a murder mystery, but it also brought me – the reader – a lot of joy to see such meticulous character development in a novel.
Although the extensive cast of well-developed characters was a successful aspect of the book, there was a slight problem in terms of writing style that irked me. The author had an irritating habit of “head hopping”. For example, there would be a paragraph that was entirely from Jim’s point of view, his thoughts, his feelings, his perspective. Then halfway through the paragraph, the narrative would switch to another character’s perspective! This was rather annoying and happened quite frequently, but it was, unfortunately, necessary to achieve the level of character development that I thought so highly of.
The plot of “Just to Help Him Out and To Help Him on His Way” was relaxed and meandering. It plodded along at a measured, but sufficiently fast, rate which seemed ill suited to a murder mystery novel but actually went very nicely with the tone. The tone of the book was lovely. The author had a nice way with words – effortlessly stitching humorous anecdotes into the fabric of the story, and employing a smooth, cyclical structure in terms of comedy. By this I mean that the book was packed with recurring jokes and references back to previous, funny events, which served to tie the whole thing together and ensure that everything read well.
There were, however, a few instances where this technique was used too much, for instance when descriptive paragraphs repeated the same thing over and over again. Less rambling and more succinct description would have gone down a treat in this book, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy it. I did enjoy it – it was funny, it was interesting, and although the ending was an utter let down, the murder mystery was mysterious enough to keep me reading.
I would definitely recommend this book.