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review 2018-11-24 00:46
Not a whodunnit. Not even a whydunnit.
Portrait of a Murderer: A Christmas Crime Story - Anne Meredith

Themis reviewed this one last year for the Penance Day task, and her rationale is convincing enough that I may end up sliding it in there. At this point, though, I've completed several of the Penance Day tasks, so I figure I'll hold onto it and see if it fits somewhere else first.

 

This was an oddly intriguing mystery. It took me some time to get into it, but once I was hooked, I was really hooked and couldn't set it down. In spite of the fact that we know who the murderer is from the moment that the murder occurs (it's really more a manslaughter than a murder), it's the first - possibly the only - Golden Age mystery that I've read where I genuinely thought that the wrong person might hang for the murder. This was a clever plot device because it really did keep the tension high for me, even though there were no secrets to be revealed.

 

This book fits neatly into one of my favorite book categories: English country house Christmas murder mystery. While the author does keep the festivities to a minimum, the murder occurs on Christmas Eve. The victim, yet another stingy patriarch, is the sort of petty domestic tyrant that the members of the Detection Club specialized in creating. Were all old English men such maliciously awful people? One wonders...

 

One of the things that I did admire about the book was the success that Meredith had in creating individual characters - all too often in these books, the siblings (suspects) sort of blend together and it's hard to remember whose who. Not so in this family. 

 

I also enjoyed the fact that there are a few (very few, but a few) very likeable characters mixed in with the rest of this miserable family. Miles Amerey has married the youngest daughter of Adrian Gray, Ruth, and they have a sweet and happy marriage. Miles is unambitiously happy as a mundane solicitor, in contrast to the two strivers in the family: Richard, the eldest, an MP who desperately wants his father to buy him a title, and whose just a noxious social climber, and Eustace, who has married one of the Gray daughters, and who is a "financier" (i.e., swindler) who seems to have managed to waste the entire family fortune, along with the fortunes of countless working class families, through his fraudulent dealing.

 

I also really liked the two women who seem to come to life throughout the events of the book: Isobel, the youngest daughter, whose been dispatched home by her husband after her child dies and he decides he just can't deal with her anymore, and Richard's wife, Laura, who has some sort of an intellectual awakening as Richard's life falls apart, in which she realizes that everything that they have been working for is an illusion. I would have loved to see more of these two characters, because I found their tangential story lines really interesting.

 

Martin Edwards wrote the Forward to this one, and mentioned that many of the members of the Detection Club would use one another's names in their books. He pointed out that Agatha Christie named one of the characters in Cards on the Table "Anne Meredith" after the author.

 

This was a library copy, and while I did enjoy it, it isn't Christmassy enough to make it into my holiday rotation. The cover is gorgeous, though - even better in person!

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review 2018-02-21 21:07
Somebody At The Door by Raymond Postgate
Somebody at the Door - Raymond Postgate

I haven't read the other BLCC book by Postgate, Verdict of Twelve, which was recommended by Martin Edwards in Chapter 15, The Justice Game, of The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books.

 

As is the case in most of the BLCC books, Martin Edwards did write an introduction for Somebody at the Door. This one rose to the top of my current reading list based upon the WWII setting and the plot summary which captured my interest.

 

This is a very odd little book. It operates within a standard mystery framework: Councillor Henry Grayling, the victim, returns home after a day at work, travelling by train and in possession of more than 100 pounds in wages to be paid out the following day. Sometime after making it home, his wife Renata calls the doctor to report that he was later coming home and that he was very ill. Some time later, Grayling expires of what ends up being a mustard gas attack.

 

Inspector Holly, charged with solving the crime, determines who was in the train car with Grayling and conducts an investigation into their backgrounds. Each of them, in their own way, have a motive to murder Grayling, who was an unlikeable and highly unpleasant man. 

 

Each of the suspects is granted his/her own chapter, which is where things get either interesting or bogged down, depending upon your perspective, in terms of the narrative. Each chapter functions as a mini-tale, providing detailed insight into what life was like in England during 1942 for various characters and social classes. If you, as a reader, are interested in this sort of thing, then the book is a fascinating read. If you are here for the mystery, well, a great deal of the detailed meanderings are superfluous and tend to grind the mystery narrative to a halt.

 

I am interested in this sort of thing, so I enjoyed those chapters. But a lot of it has little to nothing to do with the central mystery. In addition, there was a pretty big plot element that was just left unresolved without being addressed by the author in any meaningful way at all. I think that Verdict of Twelve might be a better bet than this one!

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text 2018-02-09 21:28
Friday reading: February 9, 2017
The Perfect Summer: England 1911, Just Before the Storm - Juliet Nicolson
D Is For Deadbeat - Sue Grafton
E is for Evidence - Sue Grafton
Somebody at the Door (British Library Crime Classics) - Raymond Postgate,Martin Edwards

 

Reading/Listening:

 

I'm still working hard on the Adventure Quilt - it has to be finished by the going away party next Saturday (2/17) because the recipient is leaving Oregon for parts unknown on 2/18. I'll post pics of the finished quilt.

 

Because of this, most of my reading is occurring through listening right now! I downloaded A Discovery of Witches as an audiobook because it sounded like an appealing reread. I'm about 5 hours in, and have about 18 hours left. I am still dithering on whether I will continue to listen to it, or move onto Crooked House by Agatha Christie, which I could probably finish this weekend.

 

I've barely dipped into A World Undone and I haven't even cracked This Rough Magic. I'm at about 20% in The Venetian Affair.

 

Haul:

 

I just bought D is for Deadbeat and E is for Evidence to continue my Kinsey Millhone read over the next ten days or so. I also picked up The Last Summer by Juliet Nicholson, which is a non-fiction book about the summer of 1911, prior to the beginning of WWI in 1914. I am planning to blow through that one (it's a mere 325 pages) before really digging into a A World Undone. I'm loosely planning on following it with Nicholson's book about the time after the armistice, called The Great Silence. I also bought Somebody at the Door by Raymond Postgate, mostly because I wanted to buy a BLCC and I liked the cover. 

 

Total for the week: $34.90

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review 2017-10-07 17:33
Bwahahaha!
Murder of a Lady (British Library Crime Classics) - Anthony Wynne

I found this book to be delightful and the ending made me laugh out loud with glee. The solution to the "impossible crime" was absurd and contrived - as these impossible crime solutions often are - but not such that I was annoyed.

 

I didn't guess whodunnit. I was pretty sure throughout the entire thing whodidntdunit, and I was right about that, but I focused on the wrong character. 

 

Specifically, I thought for the longest time that Duchlan had finally gotten fed up and murdered his horrible sister. Then, towards the end, I started to suspect that possibly Eoghan's mother wasn't actually dead, but was horribly disfigured and had been living in a hovel on the loch somewhere plotting her revenge.

(spoiler show)

 

The victim, Mary Gregor was an odious woman. She reminded me a lot of Mrs. Boynton, from Appointment With Death, which remains one of my favorite Christie mysteries. Some people go unmourned for good reason. The second inspector sent to investigate, Barley, was a blooming idiot with a bad case of confirmation bias - he decided who did it, and then try to squash the evidence into agreeing with him.

 

The book did drag a bit - this I cannot deny, and I agree with Tigus that the talky-mc-talkerson grew tiresome. I was totally astonished by the THIRD murder, and by the fourth, I was dying to get to the end! Overall, this ended up being one of my favorite of the BLCC reissues. 

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