Monday, December 5, 2016

STRONG POISON - Dorothy L. Sayers

























Harriet Vane is being tried for murdering her lover by poisoning him with arsenic, the jury retire but as they are unable to reach a verdict are discharged. The Judge orders a new trial.

Lord Peter Wimsey who has been sitting in on the trial and has become enamoured with Miss Vane now has a month to find evidence she is innocent or she will be hung by the neck until dead.

This is a good solid murder mystery with Sayers usual quality dialogue making it good fun.

Sayers's feminism is very subtle and I suppose it had to be in 1930's when this was written as all the detecting is done by women who gather the evidence in the quest to prove Miss Vane innocent.

She also has subtle digs at contemporaries at one stage Wimsey's butler Bunter is reminded to stop "trying to sound like Jeeves" and Zuleika Dobson gets a mention as "the Beerbohm girl ".

Again this is part of a beautiful Folio Society set that I don't believe was ever read by the original owner.

Monday, November 28, 2016

MURDER MUST ADVERTISE - Dorothy L. Sayers

























There has been a mysterious death at Pym's Publicity and Lord Peter Wimsey goes undercover to obtain any information that he can to see if there was more to this death other than a trip down a stair well.

There are several excellent detective story writers from the 'golden age', generally the 1930's - 1950's, but for me Sayers is at the very top.  Compared to Agatha Christie Dorothy L. Sayers is next level. She has well plotted stories, character development and wonderful banter between these characters.

Sayers did work at a advertising agency and her inside knowledge is put to full use here,  As with all her stories she subtly mocks a society that continually has women as second class citizens.  She was a very clever feminist many years before most knew how to spell the word.

Sayers is still widely read today because her stories are generally timeless, this was written in 1933 and apart from some phrases stands up well.

Not only is this a good detective story it is also a beautiful edition, part of a Folio Society box set of five books I received as a gift.   Not only a great mystery writer but a very interesting woman.


Saturday, November 26, 2016

CRIME STORIES FROM THE STRAND - edited by Geraldine Beare

























This is a Folio Society edition containing 18 crime stories published in The Strand magazine between 1891 and 1942.

Included are two Sherlock Holmes's, two Agatha Christie's, the only detective story written by Rudyard Kipling, G.K. Chesterton, Edgar Wallace and my favourite from this anthology by Margery Allingham.

An excellent collection of tales with a great preface by the Editor who gives a run down on what a fine magazine The Strand was.


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

4.50 FROM PADDINGTON - Agatha Christie

























"Having done her Christmas shopping, Mrs. McGillicuddy relaxes happily in a train. Then another train, going in the same direction, draws abreast and for some minutes the two trains proceed side by side...... In the first class carriage of the second train, Mrs. McGillicuddy sees, to her horror, a man strangling a woman...."

Another Christie- an inoffensive murder mystery featuring Miss Marple.  This has some decent characters in it and for a change all the clues are laid out so it can be solved by the reader rather than her normal outrageous cheating.

Always a pleasant way to spend a lazy Sunday.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

GALAHAD AT BLANDINGS - P.G. Wodehouse

























"Wodehouse's idyllic world can never stale. He will continue to release future generations from captivity that may be more irksome than our own. He has made a world for us to live in and delight in."  - Evelyn Waugh.

This is a further adventure involving Galahad Threepwood and the usual cast of characters at Blanding's Castle.  The usual Wodehouse themes of love, lost love and ridiculous misunderstandings again create several hours of absolute joy.  Reading him should be compulsory.


























Friday, November 18, 2016

BELOVED - Toni Morrison

























It has been a long time since the first chapter of a book got me like the one in this novel. There was that much crammed into it, it can stand alone as a short story.  From here I was hooked.

Set just after the end of the American Civil War, Sethe a former slave is living in the north with her daughter.  Two boys have run off and another "Beloved " is dead.

The story contains supernatural elements coupled with strong women and men bearing the mental and physical scars of slavery. It is a fantastic feat of writing, the imagination involved is indescribable.  It is easy to see why its on great novel lists and why Morrison has been awarded a Nobel prize for her body of work.

I can't say I enjoyed reading this, I was left feeling unsettled with what occurred but its a great book.





Saturday, November 12, 2016

THE DEVILS OF LOUDUN - Aldous Huxley

























"This is a historical narrative of supposed demonic possession, religious fanaticism, sexual repression and mass hysteria that occurred in 17 century France surrounding unexplained events that took place in the small town of Loudun.

It centers on Roman Catholic priest Urbain Grandier and an entire convent of Ursline nuns, who allegedly became possessed by demons after Grandier made a pact with Satan."  (Wiki)

The priest arrives in town and promptly gets off side with everyone, he's self centered , arrogant gets one local girl pregnant then denies any involvement.  He next seducers another woman and manages to convince her that he has the power to marry them and puts her through a mock ceremony.

Naturally the locals don't take too kindly to this and from then on he is a marked man.  He not only has to deal with the locals but he has also upset many movers and shakers in Paris.

The head of the local convent  Soeur (Sister) Jeanne become infatuated with him and after he rejects her sexually and refuses to become the convents spiritual adviser she to sets out to destroy him.

The seventeen nuns at the convent become over taken with a mass hysteria where they are allegedly possessed by various demons.  The priest is blamed for this.  The church sends in exorcists rid the nuns of these demons.

For the next several years these exorcisms go on.  They become public entertainment .  People travel from all over Europe to witness the nuns lewd and outrageous behaviour , witness the exorcists whipping them, performing enemas. (This is all true)

This is all an amazing stitch up of the priest, who although he is everything that a priest should not be he hasn't infected these women with  demons.

Eventually after years of "evidence" being gathered  to use against him and the most horrific torture Grandier is burnt at the stake.

The ignorance of all concerned is fascinating, it shows the farce that religion is and even though this was 500 years ago it is still staggering what people believed.

Huxley manages to explain well the physical filth that people lived in these times.  One of the priests concerned in gathering evidence to convict Grandier slept in his clothes for 20 years and explains how it took him several hours to remove his shirt which he changed once a week.

There is a lot more to this than I've said here.  Huxley used many sources as material including an autobiography written by Soeur Jeanne herself and several other contemporary accounts.

This is the book that Kens Russel's film  "The Devils "  is based on.  I've seen the film and many said it was over the top.  After reading this I think Russell was remarkably restrained in his treatment.