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Et in Arcadia Murder Monday

What I've Finished Reading

Behold, Here's Poison by Georgette Heyer. The twist here (which is not really a spoiler) was that it looks like the case is going to be solved by a bland professional, but then an Obnoxious Amateur swoops in and steals the show. Here it's one of the Mitchell family's ultra-arch young cousins, Randall. Competition for Most Insufferable Detective is a crowded field, but Randall Mitchell deserves a special award for being the most pointlessly and incessantly caustic. It's like he's under a witch's curse that prevents him from speaking without sarcastic diminutives. I might like Randall if he starred opposite Bette Davis in All About Eve, but in book form he's tiring. At the last minute apparently Heyer and/or her editor decide they need to establish his heterosexuality for some reason, so [not a very important spoiler]he bullies and insults his cousin Sophie Stella until she agrees to marry him. Why?? We just don't know.

This was a very crisp, small, and smoothly running English Overlarge House Murder machine that I read all the way to the end and then forgot about completely, except for the lingering memory of Randall being the worst.

False Scent and Hand in Glove by Ngaio Marsh,

False Scent isn't quite Marsh back on top of her game -- in some ways it's less enjoyable than Singing in the Shrouds -- but it's solid enough. Bickering egotistical theatre people being theatrical, a horrifying but not too over-the-top murder method (insecticide in a perfume bottle!), That One Gay Guy whom Marsh keeps writing over and over (he is made entirely of stereotypes but I still kind of admire his spirit) and decent if not spectacular interrogations by Alleyn and Co..

Hand in Glove features a pleasantly unappealing eccentric who almost destroys himself with his own classism (he should go and live in Within A Budding Grove, where Little M. and friends spend all day ranking and re-ranking social milieux in a peaceful murder-free environment). It also features "possibly the most unprofessional speech of [Alleyn's] career," which admittedly isn't saying much:

"You can stop being an ass," he rejoined tartly. "I don't know why I waste time telling you this, but if you don't you may find yourself in serious trouble. Think that one out, if you can, and stop smirking at me."

There is an unpleasant adopted daughter and all of the characters seem to take for granted that her unpleasantness and her louche con-man boyfriend are an example of Blood Will Tell. I don't know if that's the lesson we're supposed to learn or not, but no one bothers to undermine it if it isn't. The best part of Hand in Glove was the brief interlude where Troy is kind to a young artist in her brusque way. But why is Troy so appalled at the idea of drawing the portrait of an "old phony" for his poor little anachronistic etiquette book? His money is just as good as anyone else's, and it's not like drawing someone's face for a book cover is the same as [Not that much of a spoiler] faking up an eighteenth-century painting of one of his invented ancestors, right? Unlike all those old friends of the family who refuse to deal with anyone but Alleyn because his accent makes them feel at home and they can trust him not to drink sherry out of a brandy snifter, I am not always 100% clear on the distinctions.

What I'm Reading Now

Dead Water is great so far: a bored journalist (not Nigel Bathgate, alas) turns an obscure costal village into Vaguely Pagan English Lourdes, but the new landowner, who is also Alleyn's former French tutor, is determined to stop all this nonsense at once and restore the village to its former respectable obscurity. How will she manage it? Can it even be done? Will murder ensue? Alleyn has done this long enough to know that any time one of his imperious elderly friends calls on him about something vulgar happening in the countryside, it's time to pack the weekend bag and tell the local constabulary to clear the bridge things off the coroner's table.

What I Plan to Read Next

Everyone loves the king of the sea, but what happens when love turns cold? Killer Dolphin is next! And probably some other things I've been neglecting to post about.


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 25th, 2016 07:42 am (UTC)
If you've read more Heyer, Randall suddenly being the hero is a lot less surprising, I can tell you. (And he may be awful, but he is still the only reason for reading that one. As to randomly reasserting hetersexuality, that one has nothing to the one with Neville in; they even stand around saying, "Hey, we thought he was gay!" if I remember rightly).

However, despite everything else here, I am mostly distracted by the fact that the US seems to have renamed Stella (the cousin who marries Randall) as Sophie. I wonder why on earth they did that? Randall marrying Stella is one thing, but clearly he should never marry a Sophie at all. *baffled*

(As I said, I much, much prefer Heyer's historicals! But The Unfinished Clue has gratuitous detective romance and name books, while there are two others I like. I just can never remember which ones they are. It's v inconvenient. But not Penhallow. One day I might work up the courage to re-read it, but I suspect life's too short. She wrote it at the same time as Cousin Kate, which is also very weird and dark and unlike her usual stuff. She must have been really going through something that year, I suppose.)

Hand in Glove in the TV version - though I dislike it - does manage to have John Gielgud as Mr Pike Percival (or whatever his name is) and you have to hand it to them, it's glorious casting, even if they savage yet another romance and do who knows what to the rest of the book.

I feel sure now that Killer Dolphin can only be a disappointment!
Apr. 25th, 2016 11:57 am (UTC)
That's what I get for reading things out of order! I am also pretty sure it was Stella and my mind just lazily auto-replaced it with Sophie for uninteresting reasons, so I'll correct that. Behold, Here's Poison was interesting in that I know I enjoyed it perfectly well while I was reading it, but twenty minutes after I'd finished it, it had almost completely evaporated. Which is good for keeping the mind attic tidy, I guess.

Penhallow seems to have a widespread reputation as The One You Should Never Read.

Hand in Glove in the TV version - though I dislike it - does manage to have John Gielgud as Mr Pike Percival (or whatever his name is)

Percival Pyke Period! If that is his real name. I can imagine Gielgud had a lot of fun with it. I definintely spent most of Hand in Glove wondering if there was a romance-torpedoing TV version (with Nazis?) because I liked those well-meaning young people.

If Marsh's American publishers didn't want people to be disappointed in the actual content of the book, they should never have named it KILLER DOLPHIN. An important lesson for all!

Edited at 2016-04-25 12:13 pm (UTC)
Apr. 25th, 2016 12:41 pm (UTC)
Ha, well I can't say anything, because while I do remember Stella, I really have trouble remembering which Heyer murder is which (apart from the one with the detective romance, the one with Randall, and the one that's really a 30s spy romp, which is sweeter than most of the rest).

And, as to the TV version, oh my goodness, they didn't half torpedo that romance. I don't think they were quite so harsh to any of the others. That one got shot down in flames. I don't know what the writer/producer had against them, but clearly they'd been nursing a grudge for years.

If Marsh's American publishers didn't want people to be disappointed in the actual content of the book, they should never have named it KILLER DOLPHIN. An important lesson for all!

THis is true. *nods wisely*
Apr. 25th, 2016 03:46 pm (UTC)
Maybe Heyer doesn't like gay men so she can't have the amateur detective hero being one??? The only Heyer crime novel I know has a gay or not very coded gay character and he doesn't come out well. It's the one with a murder at a bridge party, can't recall the title.

Still Killer Dolphin:)
Apr. 25th, 2016 06:39 pm (UTC)
Maybe! I don't know if worries about gay coding were actually an issue in Heyer's mind; that's just how it read to me. Randall's extremely arch and snipes endlessly at everyone like That One Gay Guy in Marsh's books (and other 20th century media), plus I totally neglected to read his constant insults as playful flirting, so the decision to marry whatshername seemed to come out of nowhere. It may just be that the end of the book was coming up, so Heyer felt it was time to uncork some Detective Romance before the final quip.

Still Killer Dolphin:)

The worst kind of dolphin, really. :(

I'm going to be a little sad when I've finally actually read Killer Dolphin and can't anticipate it anymore. But you know what they say about all good things.
May. 1st, 2016 03:41 am (UTC)
I love Bathgate. The part in Artists in Crime where he makes up the little poems on Fox and Alleyn always make me laugh.

"I thought," he continued, "I saw Gargantua in fancy worsted socks.
I looked again and saw it was a mammoth picking locks.
'Good God,' I said, 'it might have been my friend Inspector Fox.' "
May. 7th, 2016 04:39 am (UTC)
Nigel is the best. <3 Both Alleyn and Marsh seem to have tired of him pretty quickly, but I keep hoping he'll turn up again one of these days.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )


blase ev

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