Cover Image: An Untidy Death

An Untidy Death

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Member Reviews

I found this mystery to be a little dull and depressing. I did like how the end ties everything up. ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.
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I thoroughly enjoyed An Untidy Death.  You normally know pretty much what you’re going to get with Simon Brett; a witty, very readable cosy mystery with some amusing characters and a decent, plot which makes for a light, diverting read.  This offered rather more.

It is the second in the Decluttering Mysteries series, whose central character is Ellen who is based in Chichester and works helping people declutter and overcome hoarding behaviour.  In the course of this work she becomes involved in solving a suspicious death of a potential client.  It’s an ingenious  device and sounds like a typical Brett set-up, which in a way it is.  However, he offers much more than usual in the way of psychological insight and compassionate understanding into the origins of hoarding behaviour and approaches to helping.  In addition, Ellen’s personal circumstances include a depressive husband who eventually killed himself and a son who has inherited some of his father’s depression.  This, too, is handled with both insight and understanding so that I found it a genuinely interesting, thoughtful facet of the book, rather than just the sort of standard, unconvincing bit of Complicated Personal Life which crops up too often in crime novels.

I see that some reviewers found this too miserable, but I certainly didn’t.  For me it elevated a frothy bit of light fiction to a much more rewarding read without ever getting bogged down in gloom.  Brett’s prose is excellent in that it carries you along completely naturally in Ellen’s narrative voice, he gives us some terrific, neatly painted portraits of minor characters and, on a personal note, I am delighted to find a character who says, “I always prefer the words ‘die’ and ‘death’ to any of the popular euphemisms.  ‘Passed’ and ‘passed away’ are just attempts to sanitize the reality.”  Amen to that.

I’m surprised to find myself giving a Simon Brett book five stars; they’re normally a solid four for me, but this deserves more.  I can warmly recommend it, and I’ll be catching up on the first in the series very soon.

(My thanks to Canongate Books for an ARC via NetGalley.)
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I have always thoroughly enjoyed Simon's books and especially the Fethering series. They are good, light cosy crime/mysteries full of fun and engaging characters with a clever mystery at the heart. This I found different in that it had more serious issues at the heart of the story even though it was still an enjoyable and satisfying read. I haven't read the first in this new series but will look for it to get a bit more background on the main characater.
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This is 2nd in a new series, Decluttering Mysteresi by Simon Brett. I am a long time fan of this author, especially  his Fethering series..His British mysteries have a large  following. 
Ellen has recently started a new business called SpaceWoman to help hoarders declutter and organize. She often deals with the psychological component of hoarding when called up by her clients.
I enjoyed the book very much but differently than the first. The murder happened about a third of the way in which seemed long to me. Half of the book dealt with various mental health issues of her two adult children as well as  her deceased husband.,all who  I met in the 1st book. I found it interesting  but it was a large part of the book not having to do with the murder mystery  itself. All that being said the mystery itself was very good and I look forward to a third in the series.
I'd like to thank NetGalley, Severn House and the author for the opportunity to read and review this book.  It published on 9/7/21
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I have depended on several of  Simon Brett's other cozy mystery series for a fast satisfying read. An Untidy Death Is the second book in the Decluttering Series starring Ellen Curtis, a personal organizer/ declutter/ unofficial social worker. This series is much like his others with a bit more depth to the main character and I again found it to be an enjoyable read. There wasn’t too much of a plot to the mystery (I figured out the culprit early in the book) and, while I wonder how Ellen is able to make money from her decluttering business when she is sidetracked solving mysteries, I enjoy learning a bit more about the supporting characters. I’m looking forward to the next book in this series.
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Ellen Curtis, professional organiser and declutterer is intrigued by the suspicious death of one of her almost-clients. In fact, in the whole time of the book Ellen has only two paying clients - fees must be exorbitant to make a living.
I liked previous books by Simon Brett, but here he is leaving a jarring patronising scent mixed with a generous helping of cod psychology. He thinks he knows how women think, behave and interact, but *newsflash* t’ain’t so.
Bringing into the storyline a female war correspondent was mildly interesting, but the book was supposed about hoarding. Annoying.
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Professional declutterer Ellen Curtis has two new prospective clients on her hands  - widower Edward and (courtesy of her daughter) famous war correspondent Ingrid. One difficult, one less so.

But when Ellen sees on the news that a house fire has claimed a life, she becomes entangled in a complicated case
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Not so much a mystery, but more a bleak story about dysfunctional parent/child relationships; abusive domestic relations;  and chronic depression.  I’ve read Simon Brett for decades and have always enjoyed his humour, sadly this book has no humour, no answers, no happy ending.  
As always with this author, the book was well written with a good flow. The characters were well developed and believable.  It was a quick read and kept my interest, however it was such a change from what I come to expect from this author. The book felt very personal, as if the author has experience with depression and dysfunctional relationships.
It seems the author is exploring new territory with Ellen, let’s hope for her sake the future becomes brighter.
Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for an advance copy.
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I would like to thank Netgalley and Severn House Publishers for an advance copy of An Untidy Death, the second novel to feature professional declutterer Ellen Curtis, set on the south coast of England.

Alexandra Richards asks Ellen to consult with her mother, Ingrid, on decluttering her flat, which Alexandra believes is a fire hazard, too much paper and too many Gauloises. Then Ingrid is found burned to death in the flat. The police see an accident, Ellen sees something else and her curiosity is aroused. 

I enjoyed An Untidy Death, which is a warm jaunt around Ellen’s not quite conventional life with a puzzling mystery thrown in as a bonus. The novel is told from Ellen’s first person point of view and outwardly she is a conventional woman, not overly familiar with her clients and preferring a professional distance, with a sensible, no nonsense, yet supportive attitude. That is only half the story, however, as she is a widow dealing with her self centred mother and two disaffected adult children and emotionally supporting a series of former clients. She doesn’t seem to have much time for herself, unless you count indulging her curiosity by unofficially investigating suspicious deaths. I like her as a narrator because she’s smart and tenacious but kind and doesn’t take herself too seriously. She brings warmth to the novel, even if her comments on the people she meets are acute.

The plot isn’t particularly exciting in terms of action and big set pieces, although it has its understated moments, like the actions of Eddie Finch, a client with an unusual approach. It is, nevertheless, compulsive reading as Ellen works through the mystery of Ingrid’s death and various other problems in her life. It isn’t laugh out loud funny, but it’s warm and amusing.

An Untidy Death is a good read that I can recommend.
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As a longtime fan of Simon Brett this book is disappointing. There is a constant background of misery and hopelessness. All books do not need happy endings and all characters do not need redeeming  qualities but a reader needs some relief. Overloaded with bleakness I had no interest in what happened next. Did the book increase my awareness of mental health and abuse issues ? No. If anything it left me feeling there is no use trying to resolve these issues.
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Thank you Canongate Books and Seven House for the eARC.
Ellen Curtis, Professional Declutterer, is approached by Alexandra Richards to help sort out her mother's messy flat and Ellen is left with an uneasy impression:  Alexandra really doesn't like her mum. "My mother is going to kill herself, if I don't kill her first".  Is that just a throwaway phrase  of frustration or something more ominous?
When her mum's body is discovered in her burned-out flat, the police, considering the state of the messy home, decide it was an accident.  Ellen, finding out the past of the dead woman, isn't so sure.  There's more to this than just an unfortunate accident.  However, at least her next job, clearing out a widower's bungalow, will be a case of going back to normal.  Or will it?
I love Ellen, loved the first in the series and loved this one ... More please!  
Highly recommended.
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