Sunday, December 3, 2017

DANCERS IN MOURNING - Margery Allingham

























Jimmy Sutane, a talented dancer and the idol of musical revue,is the victim of a series of particularly vicious practical jokes.  This inane persecution attains such a degree that Mr Campion is invited to investigate.  Mr Campion visits White Walls, Sutane's country house, and on his first night there the first of  of a number of pointless, seemingly irresponsible murders is perpetuated. The victim is Chloe Pye, an intriguing unscrupulous woman, and her death could have been an accident or perhaps suicide, but in either case it was extremely convenient for quite a few people.

In an atmosphere of bewildering and increasing tension, and a situation not assisted by Mr Champion's emotional entanglements, the story is carried to an unexpected, exciting climax.

This is Allingham writing a country house murder mystery and it's dull as dishwater. The characters are all dull  and even for this type of story extremely one dimensional.

The only break in this dreary read is the appearance of Lugg, Campion's man, to add some humour and level headedness to the investigation.

All the usual police associates feature but are bit players, even Campion is off his game becoming very withdrawn after falling for one of the females involved. This isn't much fun and the ending while revealatory as is necessary in a murder mystery, is wrapped up by such a writers 'cheat' so as to be annoying.  Not one of her best by a mile.






















Thursday, November 30, 2017

HOLY DISORDERS - Edmund Crispin

























Holy Disorders takes Oxford don and part time detective Gervase Fen to the town of Tolnbridge, where he is happily bounding around with a butterfly net until the cathedral organist is murdered, giving Fen the chance to play sleuth.  The man didn't have an enemy in the world, and even his music was inoffensive: could he have fallen foul of a nest of German spies or of the coven of witches, ominously rumoured to have been practicing since the 17th century?

This is very very good, not as flippant as some of the other Crispin work still humorous but not too try hard for laughs.

The murder is the beginning of an adventure where no one is who they appear to be and the ending has several good surprises. 

This is the most entertaining murder mystery I have read for a while, it was first published in 1946 and stands up well today.  Recommended.

You can get these books through Mighty Ape in New Zealand

Crispin, real name Robert Bruce Montgomery, was an interesting chap who unfortunately had his life cut short by a fondness for the bottle.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edmund_Crispin

















Thursday, November 23, 2017

THE FEATHERED SERPENT - Edgar Wallace

























After Miss Ella Creed was knocked out by thieves outside her home, she was terrified.  She seemed to care little for her lost jewels - they were just imitation after all - but when she was unconscious a card had been toed around her neck.  On it was  a crude drawing of a feathered serpent.

Reporter Peter Derwin soon discovers that a wealthy artist, a boxing promoter and a nouveau riche stockbroker share her fear.  But why? And who is behind the crimes of the Feathered Serpent?

Published in 1932 this is a fun little adventure and reasonably complex for Wallace who churned the books out, 173 novels it is believed.  He liked a punt and was forever writing to pay the bills.

With these stories you suspend belief and enjoy some crime from simpler times when burglars actually said "fair cop, guv" and love was chaste.

This is a nifty little edition  published in 2007 by Hodder.  Its a facsimile of the original and they have even gone to the trouble of adding rubbing discolouration and  staining.


Sunday, November 19, 2017

HANGMAN'S HOLIDAY - Dorothy L Sayers

























In twelve ingenious and baffling tales Dorothy L. Sayers demonstrates her mastery of the short, sharp story.

This is a good short story collection, their are four stories featuring Lord Peter Wimsey, six featuring the travelling wine salesman Montague Egg and two standalone tales.

The Montegue Egg stories are the most enjoyable, the little salesman seems to stumble across  murder and murderers where ever he goes.  Egg is a good character and its a shame Sayers didn't write more featuring him.

As stated a good collection, ideal for a flight or the bathroom.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

DEAD MAN'S KNOCK - John Dickson Carr

























Rumbustious Dr Gideon Fell has been invited to inspect the material for a book by an early detective novelist.  He hardly expects that he will have to investigate a real death at the same time.  But an over-amorous woman is found killed in exactly the same way as the victim in the book.  So Dr fell leaves his literary pursuits and thunders into action.

This is a locked room murder mystery of which Carr is a fine exponent, except in this story.  Set in a small American college town it has too many red herrings that are left hanging and the entire cast of characters are all unlikeable.

Carr's detective, Fell, doesn't make an appearance until half way through the story and adds nothing to the story.  To cap it off there is silly last chapter, I have no idea why this was added as the story had been resolved prior.

Reading Carr is worthwhile but I'd leave this one way down the list  of his books to read first.

Friday, November 10, 2017

TREASURE ISLAND - Robert Louis Stevenson

























When young Jim Hawkins finds an old map showing the location of a hoard of buried treasure, he joins the crew of the Hispaniola who set sail to find it.  But they soon have a mutiny on their hands, led by the duplicitous pirate Long John Silver.  As the quest turns murderous, Jim's bravery is put to the test, and he discovers much about friendship, loyalty and betrayal on this daring voyage. 

This is one of, if not the greatest adventure stories ever written. The story was originally serialized in the children's magazine Young Folks before being published in 1883. 

Its intriguing and exciting from the outset when Billy Bones arrives at the Admiral Benbow Inn.  From here we are introduced to characters and language that have become part of our everyday life, Blind Pew, Ben Gunn ,Long John Silver and

Fifteen men on the dead man's chest-
Yo,ho, ho, and a bottle of rum!

There seems to have been several hundred film and television adaptations of this story of which I remember a few but none I've seen have done justice to this tale.  Wonderful

Sunday, November 5, 2017

BUSMAN'S HONEYMOON - Dorothy L Sayers

























At last...Lord Peter Wimsey and his Harriet- the woman he had saved from a wrongful conviction for murder- were married.  With the reception over and the reporters dodged, they only had to slip into the Daimler, which the suavely imperturbable Bunter had laden with provisions from Fortnum's and a tenderly wrapped crate of port, and cruise down to Paggleham for what should have been the most peaceful of honeymoons.

But this is 'a love story with detective interruptions'; the newly wedded lord and his lady were only allowed one night in their goose-feather marriage bed before a corpse presented itself.

This is a 'locked room' mystery but there's a massive cheat in that there is no way the reader can solve the problem because we are not told half the story.

What redeems this is the Harriet Vane character, she is as good as you get in detective fiction, clever funny and interesting.  Its a shame Sayers didn't do more with her but explains why 'Gaudy Night' is my favourite book in this series.

More serious than early books with some character development going back into how Wimsey and Bunter paired up.  Not the best of this series I've read but still better than most.