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This is the Way the Murder Ends Monday

What I've Finished Reading

Scales of Justice was pretty middle-of-the road Marsh, with a low-key investigation of a grisly murder. There was quite a lot of buildup regarding a shameful village secret, which made it even more disappointing when [Vaguely-worded but effective spoiler!]local prejudices against outsiders are 100% confirmed, and the true motive turns out to be barely more than "interlopers interlope." Maybe that's why the characters felt like such a Standard Mystery Assortment (Village Edition) even though they weren't exactly. The deciding clues are almost all fish-related, with lots of attention to whether a particular cat ate a particular fish. This makes for an interesting stab at a Special Topics Mystery but left me with the taste of fish in my mouth -- another subconscious reason not to like it as much? -- and doesn't have the bite of Marsh's theater and art-world mysteries.

lost_spook, you will be happy to hear that this book contains [Not that much of a spoiler!]CANON NAZIS, though they are in the past, and not one but TWO peripheral romances for the TV adaptation to torpedo.

Also: I got two more Margery Allinghams from the library. I KNOW, but The Tiger in the Smoke was recommended to me long, long ago as Allingham's best, so I wanted to make sure I read it before I left the Allinghamverse behind. Feel free to skip the results.

Coroner's Pidgin was a perfectly enjoyable period piece. It has a terrific premise (society matron finds a dead woman in her famous son's bed, thinks, "This won't do at all," and immediately engages Lugg to help her move the body to a less suspicious location) that blossoms into a complicated wartime smuggling plot. It all holds together pretty well and there's some great anxious end-of-the-world atmosphere to go with the racing around the countryside in search of stolen treasures and corpses. There's a faint but distinct Homecoming of Odysseus motif. It's all right!

Tiger in the Smoke is even more atmospheric and bombed-out, and extremely uneven. Someone has been haunting a war widow who is about to remarry by dressing up as her dead husband and sending her indistinct pictures of himself. This leads, somehow or other, to a slew of murders, a treasure hunt, and a manhunt. Along the way there are moments of creepy menace, longer passages of murky confusion, and completely baffling clauses like, "Bill, the effeminate to whom fear was an exitant. . ."

Allingham's policemen are not bad -- I've always liked Stanis Oates, and there's a talented new detective who has some good lines. Her crooks are less successful, and it was probably a mistake to set so much of The Tiger in the Smoke in their company. I can see why a lot of people consider this Allingham's best book: the Significant Fog gets plenty of work to do, the "haunting" idea is wonderfully evocative, and there's an attempt to portray the destructive effects of the war on a wide range of people that is admirable and interesting. The final confrontation between the clergyman and the killer is good -- I think I liked it because it was something Father Brown might have done if Chesterton were willing to let Father Brown get hurt -- and the ending is almost good, or very good in parts but ultimately a little cheap, or just good -- I'm not really sure. Allingham's random sexist asides are back, few and scattered but still noticeable, like a handful of crocuses poking their green heads out of the slush. Bright little random sexist crocuses, hello!

I haven't said anything about Campion because, apart from some vague regret about how much I would have liked a nice Odysseus motif if I cared about Campion a little more, I barely noticed he was there. Some good news: Val is still working, despite the weird posturing of that spineless dominance guy from The Fashion in Shrouds, and the fact that Amanda has had a child apparently means that Allingham is going to stop hitting me over the head with how young she looks. Small mercies are mercies nonetheless.

What I'm Reading Now

Christie's There is a Tide has some similar themes (post-war social upheaval, rationing being a damn nuisance) and is much easier to read. There's an odd prologue in which Poirot turns down some requests that will probably later turn out to be relevant, and then Poirot disappears and we follow some other people around for a while. The formerly comfortable Cloade family is having a terrible time adjusting to the post-war economy. If their rich brother hadn't remarried before he died, they would have gotten all his money, but he did remarry and now all his money is going to his young wife, to be redistributed to the rest of the family after her death. It's too bad the late Mr. Cloade didn't take the time to make the terms of his will less conductive to murder, but we don't always think of these things when we're alive.

The rich brother's widow seems to be a good-hearted but stupid woman who is being manipulated and abused by her brother (a creepy hothead who lives with her). Does this mean she will actually turn out to be a ruthless criminal mastermind? Maybe, maybe not. But wait! Her first husband may not have died at all, which will mean that she has no legal claim on her current dead husband's money and it will all go to her hapless social-upheaval-addled in-laws, to help them put off any further addling for another year or two. One of the characters is in an interesting predicament: she's just returned from a long tour overseas with the WRNS, and isn't sure she's ready to settle down with her fiance who has spent the war looking after the farm. Maybe this will be a plot point? It's early yet.

What I Plan to Read Next

Remember my brother, who gave me back my own books as a Christmas present and mumbled something about my other present being on its way? I had completely forgotten about that other present, so when an alarmingly massive package from Amazon appeared on my doorstep, I thought, "Why would I buy something this enormous?" and when I opened it, I was no less confused. I didn't remember buying The Complete Annotated Sherlock Holmes, but it is exactly the sort of thing I would impulse-buy at three in the morning in a fit of false productivity and existential confusion, so I just assumed that's what had happened until I opened it and saw the sales slip with my brother's name on it. So it looks like there might be some Holmes re-reads in my near future.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 9th, 2016 03:07 am (UTC)
Never hurts to go back and re-read Sherlock. Need to do that soon myself.

Actually been thinking of doing 'family reading time'. I mean, why not, yeah?

Feb. 9th, 2016 04:35 pm (UTC)
Why not, indeed! :D I hope you have fun reading and post your thoughts if you have them!

This book is beautiful inside (it has reproductions of all the original illustrations etc.), but it's the size of a large baby and needs its own lectern or something.

Feb. 9th, 2016 08:43 am (UTC)
:loL: I did know that one book actually had flashback Nazis in; just not as many as the TV show kept deciding ought to be in there. Especially since most of them were actually written pre-WWII. I had forgotten it was Scales of Justice - I really am overdue for a re-read. (Or partway through one; I think I got up to Vintage Murder or something.)

I can't remember if I've read those two Allinghams or not. *ponders*

The Christie is not one of my favourites, but it's another random rename - the US edition takes a different (and surprisingly less dramatic) part of the same Shakespeare quote. The original UK title being Taken at the Flood.
Feb. 9th, 2016 10:07 am (UTC)
Yes, I remember the Christie as Taken at the Flood too... and the Tom Adams cover, striking but not one of my favourites of his.

I have a vague feeling of familiarity with the title Tiger in the Smoke but not enough to remember the slightest detail of the actual book. Of coures, being me, that COULD simply mean my parents had a copy...
Feb. 9th, 2016 05:10 pm (UTC)
Vintage Murder is just where it starts to get good!

When I first read this, I thought, "Hey, a rare instance of the American title being better!" but now I see that There is a Tide was the American title. Oh, well.

It's not bad so far, though it is a little wrist-grabby.
Feb. 9th, 2016 01:05 pm (UTC)
Not my favourite Christie. i read a Review somewhere that said it's hard to warm to a book were no one is likeable and I Think there is some truth in that.
Feb. 9th, 2016 05:18 pm (UTC)
I think for me, whether I can warm to a book where no one is likeable (and also what counts as likeable) varies so much from book to book that I can't predict anything. In the case of There is a Tide, I sympathize with Lynn and Rosaleen, and I like Poirot, and that's good enough for the time being.
Feb. 9th, 2016 08:37 pm (UTC)
Well, Poirot is Poirot, of course. As for Lynn and Rosaleen I'll tell you when you have finished the book. :)
Feb. 9th, 2016 02:17 pm (UTC)
Tiger in the Smoke is such a perfect title, I'm sorry to hear it doesn't accompany a less uneven book. We could have had it all, Margery Allingham!

Also I love the mysterious arrival of The Complete Annotated Sherlock Holmes. It seems like the appropriate way for Sherlock Holmes books to come into one's life.
Feb. 9th, 2016 04:46 pm (UTC)
It's a good title. It's about 1/3 of a good murder novel, too -- maybe I'd say 2/3 if I hadn't burnt myself out on Allingham, but who knows now? All my judgements should be taken with plenty of salt.

It seems like the appropriate way for Sherlock Holmes books to come into one's life.

Unexpectedly and all at once? That does seem appropriate.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )


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