Death Down Under (Carol Ashton #3)
Clare McNab

We’re on a movie set for this one, well Sybil is on a movie set, Carol is investigating a string of murders committed by ‘The Orange Strangler’. While Sybil being hired as tutor to the child members of the cast of a movie which then features in the case has something of an excessive degree of co-incidence to it, you can’t hold it against the author. After one book in which Sybil gets to be a suspect (Lessons in Murder) and one in which she gets to be a jealous girlfriend Fatal Reunion) she deserves to be an active and somewhat partipatory figure in this one!

The plot from the Sybil angle (no spoilers of course) all revolves around the filming of Death Down Under, a mystery based on an allegedly real life case; it’s an interesting multi-layered idea to have a fiction book, in which features a fictional movie, based on a fictional real-life event! There’s a nice crew of people all of whom could be suspects for Carol’s serial killer, and McNab handles all the film set stuff with a very light touch with no air of ‘I’m including movie set stuff’ but still conveys atmosphere and plausibility. Clearly the movie folks are works of fiction and one isn’t intended to assume any are based on real people.

Carol and Mark, and Mark is really coming into his own in this third novel, are being driven to distraction by a high profile serial killer case on which they’re failing to make any headway. The Orange Strangler is getting a lot of media attention and people want to know why he’s still on the loose. To add an extra level of complication media talk show host Madeleine Shipley has been contacted by the killer offering exclusive information, on top of which she’s keen to get Carol on board as a consultant for a true crime series she’s making. I like the way McNab wrote Madeleine, she skates the line between being liable and a bit vulnerable and career obsessed and a bit of a cow. Developing the theme from the past two books she’s worked out about Sybil and Carol who is concerned that, despite assurances to the contrary, she’s prepared to out her if it would boost her ratings

Essentially, this is an interesting idea in that while most crime novels rely on a limited pool of people who have varying degrees of means, motive and opportunity, Death Down Under (the book, not the fictional movie…) has two discrete pools of people, unconnected with each other, to provide the suspect list. I found it an accomplished and fun read and hopefully you will too - though I’d seriously suggest reading the first two novels before this one as I think you need a lot of the background from those to get the dynamics

My copy was published in 1990 by the now sadly defunct Silver Moon Books, which was I believe an offshoot of the famous (and now gone sadly) bookshop on the Charing Cross Road - there is a Silver Moon Books you can find online but it’s very much not the same thing!