BEYOND BELIEF by Helen Smith, Book Review: A delightful romp

Beyond Belief by Helen Smith (Book 4, Emily Castles Mysteries) is a delightful romp for fans of Agatha Christie and Hercule Poirot. Read our full review.

Beyond Belief Book Synopsis: 

Beyond Belief by Helen Smith

Emily Castles, spare-time private investigator, full-time desk jockey is at it again! When renowned psychic Perspicacious Peg predicts a murder will occur at England’s Belief and Beyond conference, her skeptical colleagues recruit twenty-six-year-old budding sleuth Emily to attend the event to investigate. The suspected victim is illusionist Edmund Zenon, who plans to perform a daring stunt at the conference.

In the seaside town of Torquay, Emily meets a colorful cast of characters: dramatic fortune-teller Madame Nova; kindly Bobby Blue Suit and his three psychic dachshunds; Sarah and Tim Taylor, devastated parents mourning their late son; and religious cult members Hilary, Trina, and the Colonel. Tensions rise as believers in science, the supernatural, and the spiritual clash with one another. But once a body count begins, Emily must excuse herself from the séances and positivity circles, and use old-fashioned detective work to find the killer.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Crime-Detective, Humour

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The very British cosy mystery premise of Beyond Belief is a stark contrast to the dark dystopian novel The Miracle Inspector in which I first encountered the originality of Helen Smith’s prose. I think the light-hearted, anything goes nature of this genre actually provides greater scope for Smith to experiment with characters, yielding great results.

Although the characters’ amusing references to social media, in particular Twitter, often remind us of the modern day setting, this story exudes an olde worlde charm. This mystery is populated with characters whose manners and motivations hark back to more genteel and simpler times. But who knows what sinister intentions might lurk beneath such ostensibly harmless facades?

That is the question Emily Castles is tasked to find out. Smith’s leading lady Emily Castles at first seems like your stereotypical wall-flower and real ‘goody-two-shoes’. Unerringly pleasant and responsible, she finds herself seemingly ending up with the raw end of the deal on many occasions. But behind this mousy exterior is a very inquisitive spirit and pragmatic intellect, and Emily’s steady stream of wry observations about her own behaviour and that of the eccentric characters she meets make her a most likeable character.

Emily suspected that her friend found ordinary things entertaining because she spent so little time doing ordinary things — usually she was preoccupied with philosophical conundrums.

The lad across from them sat down again, too. He was in his twenties, about Emily’s age, pale and fragile looking, with the intense, hungry expression common to vampires and postgraduate students. He was wearing a khaki knitted hat that looked like a tea cozy. It was probably considered fashionable in the circles he moved in.

Superb character development

Helen Smith has a real knack for character development – her quirky and colourful descriptions of people in Beyond Belief were a delight. I looked forward to Emily meeting new characters in this eccentric cast, just so I could see how she’d describe them.

Then the gap between the two men bulged open and Edmund Zenon emerged, smiling and triumphant, like a participant in a pageant that evokes the birth of a hero, with the security guards playing the part of the birth canal.

I just couldn’t stop highlighting Smith’s writing…. so creative and offbeat.

Joseph Seppardi came into the bar and cooled the atmosphere by a few degrees, like a robot that has been designed to look like a man but behaves like a portable air conditioner.

While murders do eventually occur in this cosy British mystery, the value is in the meandering character driven folly, not the plot – so Beyond Belief will not necessarily be to everyone’s tastes.

I however thoroughly enjoyed the playful derision of those who passionately believed in the supernatural and the geeky humour embraced within the tale. I recommend Helen Smith’s Beyond Belief to the many younger closet fans of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot and those who appreciate good old-fashioned banter.

BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 4.5 / 5  —  Overall  4.25

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About the Author, Helen Smith

Helen Smith is a member of the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain, the Mystery Writers of America, the Crime Writers’ Association and English PEN. She traveled the world when her daughter was small, doing all sorts of strange jobs to support them both — from cleaning motels to working as a magician’s assistant — before returning to live in London where she wrote her first novel. Her work has been praised in The Times, the Guardian, The Independent, Time Out and the Times Literary Supplement. Her books have reached number one in the bestseller lists in the Kindle store on both sides of the Atlantic. Check our Helen Smith’s author website.

* My receiving a paperback copy for review purposes in no way hindered the expression of my honest opinions in the above.