by L C Tyler
Sometimes, when browsing the shelves of a bookshop, a title leaps out and demands attention. This may seem a rather random way of selecting a book, but it has worked for me so many times that I am not going to give up on it just yet. “The Herring Seller’s Apprentice” is one of those titles that could go either of two ways: it was either going to be a deeply worthy piece of literature about the east coast fishing industry, or not. In this case, it is very much the latter.
The ‘herring seller’ referred to in the title is not a young man from Grimsby, but a crime writer called Ethelred Tressider. The phrase was coined by his ex-wife, Geraldine, due to the number of red herrings he puts into his Sergeant Fairfax series.
His apprentice is a chocoholic, literature hating agent Elsie Thirkettle.
In what is a very amusing and well-written crime story, Ethelred and Elsie become amateur sleuths as they piece together the events leading up to the disappearance of Geraldine. And it seems that there is no shortage of suspects.
Geraldine was a force of nature and, as it turns out, a dab hand in the red herring market. As Ethelred and Elsie begin to unravel Geraldine’s mixed up personal and professional lives, Elsie begins to suspect that there is more to the mystery than meets the eye and that Ethelred knows more than he is letting on.
The Herring Seller’s Apprentice is a wonderfully amusing story. The main characters of Ethelred and Elsie are wonderfully portrayed, each telling their version of events in believable and very different styles. I felt drawn to the characters and their separate voices. This is the first book for some time that has left me chuckling out loud.
An excellent debut novel.