#25 BRITTEN AND BRÜLIGHTLY – Hannah Berry
“Nowadays I don’t get out of bed for less than a murder. I don’t get out of bed much.”
Fernández Britten is a private eye who used to specialise in catching unfaithful lovers, a depressing job that left him morose and suicidal. After the conclusion of his cases the paranoid and jealous clients remain paranoid and jealous while those whose suspicions were correct are never happy to have them confirmed. The dejected detective swears off investigating affairs, preferring to make himself useful by investigating murders instead. At this point, as is typical in noirish fiction, a dame arrives with a case for him to solve.
Distinctive in profile with his big nose and sunken eyes, Britten snoops and mopes his way through a rainy 1940s London with his partner, Stewart Brülightly. Though born in Ecuador, the repressed Britten is stereotypically British, while his partner is a lecherous teabag. Literally – Britten carries a teabag around in his pocket, carrying out private conversations with it that fill the gaps where normally he’d be delivering exposition to himself. Brülightly, brew-lightly, get it? Yes, it’s very odd. Hannah Berry’s post-war London is strange in several ways. Most significantly, every eatery seems to provide some hidden service that isn’t on the menu, that only investigators and ne’er-do-wells know about.
Britten’s plan to find meaning in his life and cheer himself up by investigating a murder turns out not to be such a great idea. Murders are messy and even people who aren’t spending weekends in the loveshack have dark secrets that are better left unknown for the peace of mind of everybody involved, even those who aren’t already talking to their teabags. Digging through closets looking for skeletons, the noir private eye always teaches his clients the same simple lesson: the truth hurts.