As a self-confessed fan of both the television programme Strictly Come Dancing and a good old-fashioned whodunit, I had high hopes for this novel, the author’s first detective mystery and I wasn’t disappointed.
It is set around the fictional dance television competition, Lively Toes, where a murder committed backstage, gives rise to contestants falling under suspicion of foul play. These include the ‘conceited brute’ of a politician Cobb Grainger, professional dancers, judges and production staff alike.
As the investigation into the murder gets fully underway, we learn much more of the back stories of these characters. Many appear to have their own long-held secrets which they wish to remain hidden and despite no-one really believing that the victim could have any enemies who would want them silenced, it soon appears that not everything is as it seems and more potential perpetrators come to the fore.
The two investigating officers, a detective inspector and detective sergeant, fit the mould of a Lewis/Hathaway, Barnaby/Jones pairing well and are ably assisted by the titular character, the Dancing Detective. The author acknowledges this persona is based on her real-time partner from Strictly, stalwart of the show, Anton du Beke, who ‘graciously agreed to be the model’ for her creation, Anton Caesar. Ms Widdecombe has captured the real Anton’s demeanour perfectly and I could easily picture him in the scenes described.
Without giving anything away, the author deftly brings together all the various strands of the story in a thrilling denouement. There’s a very satisfying and unexpected twist that keeps you guessing right to the end, complete with pirouettes, foxtrots, jives and even a botafogo or two. She also uses her knowledge of Dartmoor and Westminster and her own dancing experience to great effect in producing this highly readable detective novel, which also gives an insight into the behind the scenes antics of a programme like Strictly itself. A great read, which sits nicely with the new season of Strictly Come Dancing!
By Lucy Westmoreland, Trainee Chartered Legal Executive, Family
Ann Widecombe is appearing at Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival on Saturday 21st October at 3.30pm. Find out more and book now.