Out Of The Frying Pan by Judy Upton – Book Review

Out Of The Frying Pan by Judy Upton – Book Review

Out of the Frying Pan by Judy Upton

Out Of The Frying Pan

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Brighton sculptor Vonnie Sharpe’s laidback routine is shattered when her flatmate Gina is carjacked during a bank robbery.

Gina’s car is found abandoned on the South Downs but there’s no sign of the quiet young chip shop worker. A worried Vonnie enlists the help of her arty friends in the race to find her. With a singer, actor and busker on her team, she half-wonders if she could’ve got Arts Council funding for her search.

Vonnie tracks down the bank robber, who insists he left Gina unharmed in her car. From here the trail twists and turns through art classes, language schools and escape rooms, as she narrows down her list of suspects. A ransom note arrives and it’s Vonnie who the kidnappers want to deliver the money. With the cash drop imminent and not knowing who she can trust, she needs to find answers – and quickly.

Review by Stacey

Set in Brighton, Out Of The Frying Pan follows the story of Vonnie and her arty friends as they try to find out what happened to Vonnie’s flatmate Gina after a bank robber carjacks her and uses her as his getaway driver.

This was a book I was really looking forward to reading. I like a book that will make me laugh and the synopsis certainly gave me that feeling. The book opens strongly with Gina dropping Vonnie off at the bank and then proceeding to try to park her little car, unsuccessfully for a long time. When a robber, who has tried to steal from the bank Vonnie is in, can’t get his bike started, spots Gina and carjacks her.

This setup did have me ready for a giggle-fest, however, whilst there were some amusing moments throughout it wasn’t the laugh-out-loud book I had believed it was going to be. I struggled to warm to Vonnie who for days after her friend has been taken proceeds to behave as nothing has happened, just that her flatmate wasn’t there, then suddenly she decides to become a detective when the police don’t seem that bothered about the carjacking or missing Gina either.

The book moves along at a slow to steady pace and we meet a whole host of arty friends of Vonnie’s who give up their time to find Gina with some bizarre consequences. There are plenty of twisty moments and some serious scenes too. It certainly is a different book that had a cosy mystery feeling to it, perhaps this is why I didn’t fully engage with the story as they really aren’t my cup of tea! That and the excessively long chapters, a big bugbear of mine.

Overall, this is an unusual cosy crime mystery that will give you a giggle now and again. It has a decent enough plot and gives you a real feeling for the seaside resort of Brighton, a place I haven’t visited in over 20 years.

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Judy Upton

Judy Upton is an award-winning writer of plays for the Royal Court, National Theatre and BBC Radio 4. She has won The George Devine Award for stage play ‘Ashes and Sand’, Verity Bargate Award for ‘Bruises’ and Croydon Warehouse International Playwriting Award 2016 for ‘Once Around The Sun’. Plays include: ‘Ashes and Sand’, Royal Court; ‘Bruises’, Royal Court; ‘Sliding With Suzanne’, Royal Court; ‘Team Spirit’, National Theatre; ‘Sunspots’, The Red Room; ‘Noctropia’, Hampstead Theatre.

She has had seven plays on BBC Radio 4, including 2019 Drama Of The Week, ‘The Bulbul Was Singing’. As a screenwriter Judy’s feature films are Brighton-set ‘Ashes and Sand’, produced by Open Road Films and Matador Pictures; and ‘My Imprisoned Heart’ produced by Sci-Fi London. A TV drama ‘All In The Mind’ was shown on BBC1, and her short films are ‘Exposed’, ‘Milk’ and ‘Blame It On The Boogie’.

Judy’s novella, ‘Maisie and Mrs Webster’ was published by Weidenfeld and Nicholson in 2018, and Methuen will publish a second volume of her plays ‘Judy Upton Plays Two’ later this year, which includes some of her 2020/21 series of short lockdown plays.


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