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The Bare Minimum of Murder Monday

I've been a little busier than usual, so this Monday brings only a light dusting of fictional murder.

I've just started The Fashion in Shrouds, and it is pretty delightful, even if Margery Allingham seems to have dialed up her tendency to make random sexist asides along with improving her writing. Maybe it's just the high-fashion setting? There are already loads of great/awful workplace details and plenty of snarky party swanning with an undertow of menace. And Albert Campion has a sister! She's a fashion designer and they're both constantly being re-disinherited by the rest of the family for being a couple of disgraces. I love it. I want to meet all their terrible relatives, preferably in embarrassing circumstances.

The Mystery of the Yellow Room is Gaston Leroux's second-most famous book, after The Phantom of the Opera. It's written in much the same style: fake journalistic assemblage, an earnest narrator assuring the reader that he has loads of evidence corroborating everything you're about to read, a quick, sloppy style generously seasoned with exclamation points. (English translations of Phantom used to cut out most of the punctuation, and generally contrive to present Leroux as slightly less pulpy than he actually was; these days I think some of the exclamation points have been put back in). The Mystery of the Yellow Room is a locked-room mystery, and all its characters are extremely impressed by this particular locked room, which is even more locked than every other locked room in the history of improbable crimes. There is a veteran professional detective and a hyperenthusiastic wunderkind amateur detective and they are using this case as a Detective Battle! to determine who is the best at solving impossible locked-room puzzles. It's pretty great so far.

I haven't been back to the library to read more of Final Curtain, unfortunately (I haven't had time to either sit and read it, or arrange to get it checked out for me). But now that The Big Event I have been working on is over, I will be able to get back to it soon.

I have been able to read The Golden Age of Murder, but I don't have much to say at the moment except that if I loved these Detection Club dorks any more, my heart would turn into 500 heart-shaped balloons and float away into the sky. My to-read list is (predictably) longer than ever.

Comments

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
osprey_archer
Oct. 19th, 2015 12:35 pm (UTC)
all its characters are extremely impressed by this particular locked room, which is even more locked than every other locked room in the history of improbable crimes

That sounds hilarious, I love it. As does the detective battle! I was not all that impressed with The Phantom of the Opera, although the original phantom did at least seem appropriately hideous (I was very very much unimpressed with the 2004 Phantom of the Opera, where Gerard Butler way overreacted to some extremely minor facial scarring), but maybe I should give Leroux another try.

Although The Golden Age of Murder sounds even more enticing. I love books about groups of writers. Do they meet together and discuss murder over port?
evelyn_b
Oct. 19th, 2015 02:15 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure about port specifically, but drinks are definitely consumed. They have a theatrical swearing-in ceremony with a mascot skull. Ngaio Marsh was entertained, but poor Margery Allingham thought it was awful.

The Phantom of the Opera it a hot mess across all media, but it was my heart's own hot mess since I was too small to have any taste in anything, so it's hard for me to judge (it's not actually that hard any more, but tradition prevails). Leroux is not a prose stylist, or any of that sort of thing; he's an unabashed pulp hack with a wicked sense of humor.

I haven't seen the 2004 movie; I'd stopped being a Phantom completist by then and I could tell by the tininess of the mask that I wasn't going to get along with it at all.
osprey_archer
Oct. 19th, 2015 02:28 pm (UTC)
I clearly have to read this book. A skull!

I liked the 1920s silent film version of The Phantom of the Opera a lot. Lon Chaney is appropriately repulsive and tragic. I kind of wanted someone to give him a hug and take him far, far away from Christine.
evelyn_b
Oct. 19th, 2015 04:20 pm (UTC)
It's been a long, long time since I saw it, but I remember being impressed by Lon Chaney's performance. Maybe it's time for a rewatch!

I can recommend The Golden Age of Murder, though I have some very minor caveats here and there and the book is not as closely proofread as it deserves. Well, and the author describes Harriet Vane as "feisty," which is not an adjective I would have chosen. But that doesn't hurt anything.

He's careful about spoilers for the books he discusses, which I appreciate. A lot of arguably important authors in and out of the Club get left out or barely discussed, including a couple of my own favorites (Ngaio Marsh gets only a paragraph or two after the introduction; Josephine Tey is only mentioned in passing as Sir Not Appearing In This Film) but that's understandable: it's already an enormous book.

Right now, I don't think it's quite as good as The Invention of Murder, but that's a really high bar. It has some similar qualities, and is very readable.
osprey_archer
Oct. 19th, 2015 04:42 pm (UTC)
But The Invention of Murder doesn't have a detective novel writers club! That alone is clearly a tragic flaw.
evelyn_b
Oct. 19th, 2015 04:56 pm (UTC)
True enough. And the opening chapter, describing Marsh's first visit to the Club, is worth the price of the book in itself, imo. And then there's more!
scripsi
Oct. 19th, 2015 03:31 pm (UTC)
Oh my. I couldn't even get through The Phantom of the Opera, it was so tedious.

What a remember most from when the Movie came, was that I managed to upset a whole slew of fangirls when I pointed out that Eric is impotent. NOT a popular piece of information, I can tell you. :D
evelyn_b
Oct. 19th, 2015 04:05 pm (UTC)
I couldn't even get through The Phantom of the Opera, it was so tedious.

Awww, no! Pistols at dawn! D: D: D:

(I mean, just kidding. How embarrassing would it be to die defending the honor of The Phantom of the Opera? I love it and even I know it's no good).

But see, baby fangirl!me used to love the hell out of some impotence, whether it was the result of Emo Living Corpse Sociopathy Disorder, or of having one's balls lopped off for being too much of a human douchefountain, or being a literal ghost with no bodily functions at all. So your revelation would just make me dig in my heels re: Erik being the Most Tragic Murderbaby in the Death Basement.

The whole fan thing where Erik is somehow unusually excellent at sex after ~40 years of angry/self-loathing/obsessive touch-starvation has always been a little baffling to me.
scripsi
Oct. 20th, 2015 10:16 am (UTC)
Awww, no! Pistols at dawn! D: D: D:

(I mean, just kidding. How embarrassing would it be to die defending the honor of The Phantom of the Opera? I love it and even I know it's no good).


Sorry... :D

I actually loved the musical in my teens, and jumped on thebook when it was finally translated to Swedish, but well, didn't found it so entertaining. I did get so far as to realise Christine looks like his mother. Something I used to further alienate the rabid fangirls. I know, it was a mean thing to do. :)

So your revelation would just make me dig in my heels re: Erik being the Most Tragic Murderbaby in the Death Basement.

The whole fan thing where Erik is somehow unusually excellent at sex after ~40 years of angry/self-loathing/obsessive touch-starvation has always been a little baffling to me.


But of course! But yes, Eric as sex god always baffled me. But then I Always preferred my baddies to stay bad and not bbe tragically misunderstodd. It was perfectly fine with me to have crazy obsessive phantom with an unhealthy fixation on a teenager. :)
lost_spook
Oct. 19th, 2015 04:20 pm (UTC)
:lol: I have always vaguely assumed in ignorance that Phantom and The Yellow Room were serious/horror things! *uses appropriate punctuation*

I entirely disapprove of the universe getting between you and Ngaio Marsh (and Troy and Alleyn), though.

I know I have read The Fashion in Shrouds and I think I liked it but I don't know as I'm right back to remembering nothing.

The Golden Age book sounds great & I@ve put it on my wishlist.


Incidentally, where are you up to on Classic Who? Or no further on?
evelyn_b
Oct. 19th, 2015 04:50 pm (UTC)
Not much further on! I've had some technical difficulties. I'm almost through The Romans and I love it, except for some predictable 1960s comedy lechery from Nero that goes on a bit long. My computer seems to have gotten over some of its difficulties so hopefully I'll be picking up the pace again soon.

The Phantom of the Opera has elements of horror (I mean, there is a corpsey-looking killer in the basement of the opera house!) but half the time it's as much a slightly incompetently written show-business satire as anything else. Leroux's narrative pose is a Cynical Journalist Who Has Seen Wonders Too Strange to Suppress (and Cannot Contain His Excitement!!!)

Yellow Room is situationally scary (even in a locked room no one is safe!) but the tone of the narration is more like that of a mystery fan reading an especially snarly mystery: curiosity, fascination, entertainment. A large part of this comes from the Wunderkind Amateur being really young and more than a little self-absorbed. It's interesting. The prose style is very different from that of our witty Golden Agers, though.

I entirely disapprove of the universe getting between you and Ngaio Marsh (and Troy and Alleyn), though.

:(

It's all right -- there will be a happy reunion soon! In a house of death, of course, but what can you do?
lost_spook
Oct. 22nd, 2015 08:35 am (UTC)
Oh, I do hope the technical difficulties are resolved! The Romans is such fun; I'm glad you're enjoying it. William Hartnell had done years of comedy in film and radio and it really does show in the eps like this one. (I don't know if you've got to the, ah, Hans Andersen bit - I'm forgetting what happens where now - but it's great, as is his punning at Nero.)

And also now you're at this point, I can finally say: VICKI!!! ♥ (I mean, I like Susan, of course, and I love the idea of her, but I love Vicki such a lot - she's the first companion to be as adventure/exploration addicted as the Doctor & she's so frequently over-looked by fandom as being a carbon-copy Susan, which is simply untrue. She may have just poisoned Nero, why not? That is not a Susan thing to do, honestly.)

What comes after? The Web Planet? I've never seen that, but I used to own a 1960s illustrated novelisation so I always think I have.

I know Phantom from seeing the show twice and watching the film and have always gained the vague impression that liking non-musical versions/the book is always so much more Serious and Important and Dark, that I'm highly amused by this news.

It's all right -- there will be a happy reunion soon! In a house of death, of course, but what can you do?

Such is the lot of the detective, even Alleyn, despite his best efforts not to turn up.
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