Book Notes – Crime Fiction

I’ve recently read the following books:

Tiger In the Smoke by Margarey Allingham (first published 1952).  Jack Havoc is on the loose in post-war London, resulting in murder, mystery and mayhem.  I was immediately struck by the imagery – the fog pervades everything. At times I wished there was a bit less description but at other times I was completely caught up in the story and could feel the tension and fear in the characters. I expected Inspector Campion to take the lead but he only appears as a minor character. I thought the attitude to women was a bit condescending, and Meg, the young widow, didn’t really engage my sympathy.  However, Canon Avril is one of the best characters (along with Tiddy Doll), and forms a complete contrast with Havoc – good/evil.  His view of anger is that it is “the alcohol of the body”, which “deadens the perceptions.” And l liked his thoughts on the soul: “When I was a child I thought of it as a little ghostly bean, kidney shaped, I don’t know why. Now I think of it as the man I am with when I’m alone.”  After a slow start I read with increasing anticipation to find out what happened next.

Detection Unlimited by Georgette Heyer. Published in 1953 a year after Tiger In the Smoke this is a much lighter novel. As the title implies there are many suspects for the murder of Sampson Warrenby, found dead under a tree in his garden with a bullet through his brain and many people all too ready to tell Inspector Hemingway who did it. I was immediately drawn into a world gone by in a small village, with characters such as Mrs Midgeholme with her pack of Pekes, whose names all begin with ‘U’, Mr Drybeck, the old-fashioned solicitor, Warrenby’s long-suffering niece, Mavis, the country squire and his lady-wife, the maiden aunt Miss Patterdale, and the village bobby on his bicycle. A spot of blackmail, and a  number of twists and turns in the plot kept me interested to the end.

I thought A Christmas Visitor by Anne Perry was a little disappointing. The only Christmas connection I could see is that it is set just before Christmas. The good thing about this book is that it is very short (133 pages). The bad thing is that it is rather tedious. It began well set sometime in the 19th century with Henry Rathbone’s visit to the Dreghorn family near Ullswater in the Lake District for Christmas.  Judah, a judge in the local court at Penrith, had been found drowned in a stream, having gone out late at night. It was assumed at first that it was an accident. Antonia, Judah’s widow tells Henry of the death of her husband and then one by one Judah’s brothers, Benjamin, Ephraim and Naomi, his sister-in-law arrive and are met by Henry and he relates the account of Judah’s death to each one and I started to get tired of the repetition. The chief suspect is Ashton Gower, who has just been released from prison, sentenced by Judah to twelve years for forgery. Gower claims to be the rightful owner of the Dreghorns’ house. Not the most riveting of mysteries.

Friday’s Child by Georgette Heyer

 Friday’s Child is the first book I’ve read by Georgette Heyer. It is completely different from the type of  books I normally read and at first I thought I wouldn’t like it but I soon changed my mind. It’s a light-hearted novel that’s easy to read, although full of Heyer’s Regency slang.

In 1943 when she was working on Friday’s Child Georgette Heyer wrote  to her publisher describing it as

a Regency society-comedy quite in my lightest vein. … Nothing mysterious or very exciting happens, but I think it is pretty lively.

Twenty years later she described it as ‘my own favourite’.  I found it entertaining and amusing. Lord Sheringham (Sherry) is rejected by the Incomparable and outstandingly beautiful Miss Milborne and vows to marry the first woman he meets. Fortunately this happens to be Hero Wantage (Kitty), a young and naive girl who has loved him since childhood. Although he is not in the least in love with her they elope.

The story is quite predictable, but none the less enjoyable, as Kitty and Sherry embark on a series of mishaps, mayhem and scrapes. The  trouble is that he doesn’t realise she loves him and carries on as though he were still single and she takes what he says as the gospel truth, resulting in chaos and disaster. Eventually she takes the drastic step of running away from him aided and abetted by his friends, George, Lord Wrotham, Mr Ringwood and the Hon. Ferdy Fakenham. The end result as Sherry desperately tries to find her is very much in the vein of a Whitehall farce, with disguises and mistaken identities.

Georgette Heyer’s portrayal of Regency England is superb in detail and atmosphere.  The beauty and skill of this elegant, romantic novel is that it transported me back in time to Regency England, a time of dashing heros and enterprising heroines. I’m now looking forward to reading more.

My first book for The Georgette Heyer Reading Challenge.

Georgette Heyer Reading Challenge

I don’t know whether it’s the time of year, summer drawing to a close and the promise of autumn in the air, but I feel in need of a change. Autumn always makes me think of doing new things anyway so when I read about the Georgette Heyer Reading Challenge it seemed just the time to read a new (to me) author.

The challenge is a perpetual challenge, hosted by Becky of Becky’s Book Reviews. There is no time limit to this challenge. The aim is simply to read as many of Georgette Heyer’s books as you would like – all or just a few.

Heyer wrote historical fiction, Regency romances most set before 1800 and also mystery thrillers.  I first came across Georgette Heyer’s books years ago when I started working in a library. Her books were amongst the most frequently borrowed books and maybe that’s why I never read any of them – they were always out on loan. Other popular books were the Jalna series of books by Mazo de la Roche. I have been meaning to read some of these books for years and it seems that now is as good a time as any to begin. I haven’t got any of Heyer’s or De la Roche’s books so I’ll borrow them from the library to see if I like them.

On Geranium Cat’s recommendation I’m starting with Friday’s Child, in which the wild Lord Sheringham who, having been rejected by Miss Milborne, vows to marry the first woman he meets. I haven’t read anything like this for years. I’ve also borrowed The Private World of Georgette Heyer by Jane Aiken Hodge, to get an idea of what Heyer’s life was like. She was born in August 1902 in Wimbledon, into a very different world. I’m tempted to start with the biography, although it may be better to some of Heyer’s books first. What do you think?