And so the day finally arrived – the Bodies From The Library Conference at the British Library, a conference focusing of Golden Age detective fiction. You can probably tell from the fact that over two-thirds of recent reviews on the blog have been for Golden Age books that I was excited about the day – in part as I’ve never been to such an event before. I’ve thought about it, but the problem with such events is that the focus is usually very broad (i.e. crime fiction) and there are parts of the genre that don’t really interest me that much.
But the Golden Age? That’s my cup of tea. My ticket was bought as soon as I heard about. But then, after a bit of thought, I began to get a little nervous – just how well did I know the Golden Age? Christie, yes. Carr, yes. Queen (who got barely a mention – probably due to being a bit too American), yes. Marsh, a little bit. Anyone else, I’d read at most two books, but for the majority, including Allingham and Sayers, I’d read almost none. Hence my splurge recently. Did it do any good?
What would you expect to find on a golf course during a round of golf? A lost ball or two perhaps. But when Messers Maryatt (a vicar), Carmichael (a don), Reeves (a retired spy) and Gordon (an actual golfer) stumble across a body, apparently fallen from a train crossing a nearby viaduct, an opportunity presents itself. With the police convinced it is an accident, the four friends decide to play sleuth to track down a murderer.
Each of the men tackles a different thread, each advancing the case a little further forward (or in some cases, a little further backward). But will the sleuths be able to channel the spirit of the great Sherlock Holmes and catch the murderer?
Ari Thór Arason has just gained his first posting as a policeman. Unfortunately for his girlfriend Kristin, it takes him to the icy (icier?) north of Iceland, to the village of Siglufjördur. He finds himself struggling to settle in – not really that much of a surprise for a stranger in such an isolated community.
Soon there is a death in the local theatre and the rest of the community are convinced that it was nothing more than an accident. Ari Thór is not so convinced but only succeeds in annoying the local populace even more. But when another act of violence occurs, it seems that there is something dangerous lurking in the darkness…
Last time, I intended to write about spoilers in general, in particular what I consider spoilers to be and hence what I try to avoid writing or reading about. And yes, please feel free to browse my back catalogue to find countless examples of me doing the complete opposite to what I’m saying here. Anyway, I ended up writing loads (for me) about the one great twist at the end and decided to leave that post there. So this time I’m going to focus on the classic mystery novel.
The thing is, no matter how careful one is when writing a review, it’s virtually impossible to avoid hints that the armchair sleuth is going to pick up on. Even when I try and say as little as possible, you readers are experts at doing the deductive equivalent of differential calculus and at times, may be able to find clues in what I write – I know of at least one such reader, so there’s probably more. So I’ll take a moment to wholeheartedly apologise if I’ve ever directed the reader in the right direction to solve a mystery novel. As you know, that’s never been the intention.
A digression, inspired by a recent comment exchange, over the nature of spoilers. I’ve always made a point of making this a spoiler-free blog. I’d like to think that you can read my reviews and go away knowing whether or not you’ll enjoy a book and still be surprised by whatever lies within.
But it’s clear that different people have different ideas of what constitutes a spoiler, from other readers to blurb writers to cover designers to Dame Agatha herself. So I thought I’d set out my thoughts on the matter and see what other people think too.
Welcome to Eastrepps, a lovely town on the Norfolk coast. A perfect destination for that summer getaway, with plenty of healthy sea air. And a rather unhealthy serial killer, the Eastrepps Evil! People are being found dead all over the place and Inspector Wilkins from the Yard is summoned. His attention is drawn to the obvious local nut-case (not a technical term) but perhaps someone else is just as insane but is better at hiding it. Or perhaps there is a very sane motive behind the killings…
In the village is Robert Eldridge, a man with two secrets. The first is scandalous for the time – he is having a liaison with a married woman who lives in Eastrepps. Yes, she’s planning to divorce her husband, but even so, let’s hope nobody finds out! Or that anyone finds out the secret about his previous identity where he swindled countless people out of their life-savings. Oddly, a number of them live in Eastrepps. Even more oddly, some of them seem to have been murdered…
Never believe everything that you read…
After the end of the events of The Herring Seller’s Apprentice, literary agent Elsie Thirkettle is determined to attract her client Ethelred Tressider’s attention. Stopping his credit cards seems to do the trick and soon they are reunited in a second-rate hotel in the Loire valley. But before their tangled past can be straightened out, they’ll need to contend with the other guest at the hotel.
After the news of the discovery and disappearance of two priceless stamps, the hotel is holding a stamp collectors’ fair. What a coincidence. But before long, two of the stamp collectors wind up dead, Ethelred is behaving suspiciously and Elsie has acquired the sleuthing bug, determined to catch the killer. Provided she doesn’t eat the evidence first…