Are you up to this reading challenge?
As the new year has only just started, I thought you might be up to this reading challenge. As you can see you are asked to read a variety of books for a variety of reasons. I’m not good at going for variety at all. I love murder mysteries and forensic adventures but they have to be fairly gentle. My latest finished book will tick ‘A Book published before you were born’.
British Library Crime series
This book is part of the British Library Crime Classics series. As you might guess with it being written before I was born it is old! It was first published in 1936 and is one of three detective novels written by Mavis Doriel Hay. The blurb on the back of the book describes her as ‘a novelist of the golden age of British crime’
Have you ever played the board game Cluedo? You know – when you have to guess who committed the murder of Dr. Black in which room and with what weapon? I loved it, even though I never guessed the perpetrator of the crime and this novel reminds me of this game.
It is set at Flaxmere, the large country house of the Melbury family at Christmas. The patriarch Sir Osmond enjoys these traditional gatherings despite the rest of the family not being so keen. When he is found shot in the head on Christmas day, apparently by someone dressed as Santa Klaus, the festivities come to a grinding halt.
Inspection of his will shows that most of the party would benefit from Sir Osmond’s death and so Colonel Halstock, Chief Constable of Haulmshire has his work cut out to find the murderer.
Format of the book
Thinking along the Cluedo lines, the book has a useful map of the ground floor of Flamere for the reader to track the tale as it progresses. The story is told in turn by members of the party with many chapters being their recollection of events so it is important to check who is writing the chapter you are reading.
It is probably fair to say that this is a puzzle rather than a mystery but it is a good read for a cold winter’s day.
Golden age of British crime
The BL series of 25 books spans the time between the wars and has a wonderful sense of those times with their settings and conversation. The language used of time time past with cussedness, especial, jiggered and phrases like ‘…was all for arresting…’
Colonel Halstock always the gentleman explains
‘Go on Dittie. Tell me in your own way,’ I urged her. ‘Probably you all think me a tactless brute, but then I’m doing my best to help you all and I’m most profoundly sorry for you all.’
The author uses speech to distinguish upstairs and downstairs characters with the butler explaining:
“‘Ope I’ve done right, sir?’
The story is set in the West country not far from Bristol and for those of you who know the accent, you will be able to read this speech by Ashmore the old chauffeur
‘Weh, Missie, I s’pose it’s aw right. I fee’ a bit mazed an’ not rightly abeh to judge, but if you say it’s aw right -,’
The artwork on the cover is by Seymour Snyder born 1867 has been beautifully reproduced by the British Library when the manuscript was rediscovered in 2013 and immediately puts the reader back into that time when life seemed gentler and more refined but still with it’s murder mysteries!