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Invention of Murder Monday

Other souvenirs, slightly less macabre, were also available. The executioner, as a matter of right, got the clothes Corder died in, and also the rope. Such was the excitement over this case that it was reported that he had sold off the rope sections at a guinea an inch, including among his purchasers, it was rumoured, a gentleman from Cambridge who came especially to add this trophy to the university collection. For the artistic, a miniature of Corder was on display at the following Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. (The journals claimed to be appalled that respectable people were interested: 'we looked, paused, reconsulted our catalogue, looked again, rubbed our eyes . . . No, it is impossible!' But they reported it all the same.) For those with less cash and more enterprise, there was the barn itself, which was taken apart and 'sold in tooth-picks, tobacco-stoppers, and snuff-boxes.

Kaleidoscope magazine mocked the entire circus, with a picture of Corder lying on a dissecting table under which are sacks labelled 'Mr. Corder's clothes' and 'Relics for sale'. Standing on the table over the body is an auctioneer, who is calling out, 'Now then, Ladies and Gentlemen -- the Halter is going at a Guinea and inch,' while a person in the crowd responds, 'I want some of it for the University,' and another cries, 'Oh! how delightfully Horrible!'


I can't tell you how much I'm enjoying The Invention of Murder by Judith Flanders. I've been reading it in little pieces so I don't run out of book too quickly; every page is like a smudgy window swinging open onto a mundane but startlingly clear landscape. I don't know if I'm actually learning as much about 19th-century England as I feel like I am, but I enjoy the sensation anyway of puzzle pieces falling into place.



Artists in Crime was super enjoyable. My favorite Ngaio Marsh so far, and not just because Alleyn's sharp turn into Awkward Flirtationville gives him something to do besides embody professionalism 24/7. It has what I now think of as Marsh signatures: the elaborate theatrical death, followed by the slow-motion revelation of everyone's most feared and guarded secrets. It's full of sharp everyday details about renting a studio and fuel mileage and showgirl gossip, and the artists are (mostly) affectionately satirical without being caricatures -- it feels significantly kinder toward its milieu than A Wreath for Rivera, maybe because it's Troy's milieu and the author wants us to like Troy.

I liked it enough that I'm planning to go back to the beginning and read at least some of these books in order.

Artists in Crime is the second book I've read in which the detective pre-emptively eliminates a suspect from consideration due to irrelevant personal feelings of attraction. I would like to read a book in which the crush-hunch is not vindicated, the beloved object was totally the murderer all along, and the detective is fired (or at least suffers self-doubt), because seriously you guys, that is no way to run an investigation. >:( If you know of any books with that plot, you should tell me; I don't mind that it's a spoiler.

A Stranger in Mayfair, the fourth book in the Charles Lenox series, may be my favorite Charles Lenox mystery yet, though Lenox's baby hunger is beginning to grate and someone should have told Charles Finch that he didn't have to spell out every time his Impressive Clergyman lisps a word. Lenox and Lady Jane return from a presumably corpse-free honeymoon in Europe, only to find that a nice long talk about Lenox's detective activities would have been advisable at some point! Lenox wants a big pile of babies as soon as possible, but Jane is understandably reluctant! Lenox finally got his seat in Parliament, but it turns out that politics is frustrating! Not to mention people keep getting murdered all over the place.

Despite all this hardship, The Most Comfortable Man in London manages to enjoy a novel, adjust to a new butler with whom he has no fire-forged heart-ties whatsoever, drink a large number of fashionable party beverages, and settle into the squishy armchair of domesticity while unraveling the increasingly dark secrets of someone else's home life. I think I like private sorrows a little better than criminal masterminds and secret societies, at least for this series.


In other news, I got to see a performance of The Mousetrap at the local high school! It was a fun, tweedy puzzle-crime with an ugly, cruel and straightforward past crime at its heart, like so much of Christie. The program solemnly warns me that it would be a Betrayal of Art to give away the ending, but I wouldn't have wanted to anyway.

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