The Secret of High Eldersham is a bit of a weird one, really, with a lot of rather sensational stuff going on. It seems like it’s going to be one of those sleepy little village mysteries, but then there’s a whole mess of occult stuff coming in! Not that it’s unenjoyable, as aside from occasionally rolling my eyes at the drama I did rather enjoy it. It’s fairly typical in many ways of the period, with the intrepid amateur detective (who doesn’t quite run rings round the police, but they’re definitely indebted to him) and a love interest, terrible peril, etc, etc.
Miles Burton makes it work, though, and I’ve enjoyed another of his books too (finding it, on the whole, less sensational and more realistic). I’d recommend at least giving this a try! The pacing isn’t 100% perfect, but for the most part it ticks along pretty nicely.
Wow, this was just… kind of disappointing? I mean, there are aspects of it which are fairly unique — actually characterising the skinflint uncle who must die for the heir to inherit, and giving him maybe a softer side; following the crooks and getting into their heads as well as the innocent(ish) bystanders and the police, and the victim, etc. But in the end it just doesn’t come together: you don’t get to see the bad guys get their comeuppance, not all the mysteries are answered (if you even care by that point), and the “hero” insofar as there is one is a weak mummy’s boy who can’t take responsibility for his own actions or figure out how to take care of himself for even a moment.
It’s just… meh all round. I’m not really finding the ‘warm period charm’ Edwards mentions in his introduction; really, I’d be quite happy to have skipped this one.
This is a really entertaining entry into the British Library Crime Classics line-up: the premise had me from the word go, for sure. It’s a locked room mystery with a rather creepy beginning: a would-be burglar stumbles on a room full of corpses in a seemingly empty house. There’s a serious romantic plot that I think might put some readers off, especially as it involves a guy getting rather creepily fixated on a painting of a young girl and deciding he has to know her (though at least he knows she’s an adult now); sometimes it doesn’t feel like the primary point is the mystery, but instead the relationship between two people who are mostly on the edge of it.
There’s also some rather odd banter between the inspector and the policeman who works with him. Sometimes I seemed to be missing context — which makes no sense, considering they weren’t supposed to know each other long before the case, so it should all be perfectly comprehensible — and sometimes it just seemed like the dialogue was trying to be too clever.
Nonetheless, it’s entertaining and the weirdness of that opening kept me interested in how the mystery itself worked out. Unlike with some of the other books reissued by the British Library for the Classic Crime series, I do actually find myself rather eager to pick up another book by Farjeon, instead of just pleasantly entertained but not ready to leap on it. The Z Murders and Thirteen Guests are now on my TBR pile.
Obviously, when you read this, you can’t help but compare it to Gaudy Night if you’re a Sayers fan, or at least versed in your Golden Age crime fiction. It’s set at a women’s college in Oxford, after all, though it lacks the maturity and reflection of Sayers’ novel — the characters are mostly undergraduates, and there’s some leaning on stereotypes like the one single foreign student who attends the college (and doesn’t think about time, or tidiness, or anything else in the same way as British students — of course). The characters get all entangled in solving a mystery half for the fun of it, although there is the same focus on protecting the reputation of the college as Harriet and her peers feel in Gaudy Night.
Overall, it’s entertaining, with a fairly obvious (to me, anyway) mystery; it’s an interesting read as part of my ongoing dive into Golden Age crime fiction — but I’m not in a hurry to read Mavis Doriel Hay’s other two novels republished by the British Library. I probably will, but they haven’t catapulted to the top of my list.
The Cornish Coast Murder is an entertaining enough story, with the murderer being actually guessable (mostly because I looked for the character who was mentioned but seemed not to have a motive, but sshh) and some rather fun interchanges between the Vicar and the Doctor, crime fans extraordinaire. It has a good sense of place and nothing’s too fantastical, and it classically has killed off a person no one really cares too much for, which makes it fine as a cosy.
It’s definitely fun enough to make me think of picking up more of Bude’s work — I think there’s more republished in the British Library Crime Classics editions, at least. If not, maybe I wouldn’t go out of my way for it, but as it is it’s enjoyable.
And I still like the mental image of the Vicar crawling around the place with strings to get the trajectory of the bullets.
There’s some great bits of atmosphere in here — the Belfry is genuinely creepy-sounding, and the foggy interludes too. It’s a fairly typically entangled plot for a Golden Age crime novel, featuring all kinds of motives and inheritances and missing heirs, but you get the clues to guess the culprit, and I found it fun to follow through. I also appreciated that the solution is arrived at mostly by solid routine police work, not wild leaps of intuition or luck.
Definitely good enough that I’m picking up another of Lorac’s works, even if most of the characters are pretty unlikeable. (The cold, hard, cheating wife who is an actress and doesn’t forgive her husband’s lack of success, bleh.) I wasn’t expecting miracles, and thus enjoyed it accordingly.
The members of the Crime Circle filed out of the room, leaving one figure sitting in the darkness on the edge of the scene. The figure was of indeterminate height, weight and sex; in fact, it would be impossible for anyone to explain what they looked like, and even Sheringham would have been unlikely to perceive them. Nonetheless, they had watched the entire proceedings.
“I have another suspect,” this figure said. The voice, too, was androgynous; like everyone and like no one. It was the voice, of course, of the Readers.
A man’s voice. “You do?”
“I suspect you, of course. You’re guilty of the murder of Mrs Bendix.”
“I might as well suspect you,” the man replied, after a moment.
“But you’re the Writer,” the indeterminate voice said. “Anthony Berkeley Cox: also known as Francis Iles, and A. Monmouth Platts. With the benefit of hindsight, of course, we can see right through you. You’re guilty of the murder. Without you, Mrs Bendix wouldn’t even have existed.”
The man laughed, running a finger over his moustache. “Indeed? Or are you the guilty ones? Without readers to enact the crime in their heads, the story would be nothing. Mrs Bendix has died over and over again — at your hands, not mine.”
There was no possible answer to this last point, and the writer received none.
I should leave it at that, but I can’t quite resist having my say as well: The Poisoned Chocolates Case is a fun enough puzzle novel, as much a study of the characters investigating the crime and how they think, how they come to their conclusions. I rather enjoyed the plethora of solutions, though of course, I can’t help but feel that the one I wrote above is the real solution.
There’s a lot that I found annoying about this book: the allergy to using the word “said” (in one page: smirked, ranted, argued, retorted, started — and not one ‘said’), some of the made-up words and overenthusiastic descriptions of Kerri’s hair being alive, the breaking of the fourth wall… On the other hand, it’s all part of the exuberant pastiche, I think. And mostly it does work, for me anyway: I had a lot of fun. It’s goofy, but it’s pretty much Scooby Doo: of course it is.
For that reason, it’s reasonably predictable if you’ve seen a couple of episodes of classic Scooby Doo (plus maybe the movies like Zombie Island where it turns out that some supernatural stuff is real). Well, except for the Latina heroine, the lesbians, and the fact that one of the four is already dead.
It’s not the best thing I’ve read all year, but it was such solid fun I can’t give it less than four stars. I can understand those who find it too annoying, but for me it just about toed the line.
I’ll admit that I was hoping for more of the Museum atmosphere from this, and that I was a little sad that the academic rivalry subplot peters out. But it’s still entertaining: nothing too solid, fairly stereotyped cast of characters for a Golden Age crime novel, quick to read… I wasn’t expecting anything revolutionary (and indeed, don’t remember Martin Edwards mentioning this author at all in The Golden Age of Murder, which talked about some of the more interesting members of the Golden Age crime fiction movement and particularly the Detection Club), but this was the sort of undemanding, mild fun I imagined. Despite involving murder, it’s pretty darn cosy. The only uncomfortable bit is the abduction of the female character.
So not an enormously high rating, but it deserves at least a three. I had fun. Not recommended if you don’t like Golden Age tropes, though!
This is probably my least favourite of the trilogy, though it’s partly down to personal taste: I didn’t enjoy the characters or their dynamic as much. Nathaniel is pretty awesome in his unthinking protectiveness and willingness to help others, but Justin mostly just ticked me off. He does have some redeeming features (particularly his relationship with the kids he looks after), but I still didn’t quite get that relationship.
It’s useful for piecing together the full story begun in An Unseen Attraction (or An Unsuitable Heir if you started with that, like I did!) but it’s not necessary, and personally, I wouldn’t have minded giving it a miss. It’s not a bad story, and there certainly is intensity between the main couple, but they just weren’t the type of characters I really root for.