May’s reading theme of Classic British Detective fiction has extended itself into ‘flaming June’; I simply haven’t allowed myself enough time to enjoy the classic ‘whodunnits’ I have piled up next to my reading chair and bed.
I have had my first tastes of Margery Allingham and Gladys Mitchell; making the aquaintance of Albert Campion and Mrs Lestrange Bradley, both of whom were more unusual, odd and funny than I expected.
I re-read Josephine Tey’s Daughter of Time, tying in with April’s historical theme; reassesing the reputation of Richard III, presented as a psycholocial police investigation from a hospital bed. I have a pile of her other mysteries to dip into another time; I am looking forward to the Franchise Affair in particular.
Margery Allingham’s Sweet Danger was very odd: images remain of a mill, an ancient family, family infighting, a selection of unusually named gentlemen (Dicky Farquharson, anyone?), Campion being much younger than I expected and the hint of romance was a welcome surprise. I’m pleased to have at least 4 more on my shelves to try another day.
Mrs Bradley made her first appearence in my reading life in The Mystery of a Butcher’s Shop; and what an odd delight she is! All images of the majestical Diana Rigg were banished with the description of the original wizened, claw-handed, loud-voiced psycholanalyst (and odd-ball) Mrs Bradley. Firmly set in 1930s country life, this was an escapist read; the sound of croquet mallets hitting their wooden balls echoed off the walls of the large house; the country parish priest absent-mindedly pocketed clocks; romances burgeoned among the rosebushes; the whereabouts of a pair of slacks were of vital importance; a ‘Stone of Sacrifice’ held terror for everyone; and the appearance of a decapitated and dismembered human body in the village butcher’s storage was a truly grizzly image that lingers.
I will try to squeeze another mystery into this week before moving onto my next theme (more of that later): The Chinese Shawl by Patricia Wentworth. Another first, Miss Silver appears to be something of a model for Miss Marple with her bag of knitting and knowing looks between the ‘young people’ in the grand old house.
Unlike contemporary crime fiction, such crimes are solved as a logical puzzle; sex and violence are often factors (as by definition, a murder has taken place) but not dwelt upon unnecessarily. The reflection of a bygone era, of a time without technological distractions; of Vicars on bicycles; badminton on the Summer lawn; and a knowledgeable amateur solving a rash of grisly murders are utterly charming. A welcome anecdote to this current ‘age of austerity’ and too much time spent living in the virtual world.
And I didn’t even read one of Christie’s….