September 27th, 2011


Very Different Murders

I wrote here about Ann Featherstone’s book The Newgate Jig. Walking in Pimlico was her first novel (her other works are academic) and I looked forward to reading it.
‘And though I never saw the murder, hardly knew the person what done it (not really), and only nodded to her what was done in, I was there at the beginning. And at the end, too, though it cost me my health and reason …’
So Corney Sage, clog dancer and comedian, begins the book. A young girl, working on the stage, is brutally murdered in Whitechapel. There are two witnesses who might be able to identify the murderer and the story is all about whether or not he will catch up with them.

The reader pretty soon guesses the twist to this story but it’s made explicit anyway and the narration is split between the murderer and Corney. I much preferred Corney’s chapters, because he’s likeable and his part of the story includes a lot of interesting stuff about low theatricals in Victorian England. I felt the book went off the boil rather about half way through but as the hunt quickens the story fairly gallops to a conclusion. I enjoyed it but I think The Newgate Jig is better plotted and a better book. I hope there will be more.

From brutality and real evil to the cosy murders of Simon Brett. Earlier this month I read another of his Blotto and Twinks stories, Blotto, Twinks and the Dead Dowager Duchess which was highly entertaining. My very next visit to the library yielded the latest Fethering mystery, Bones Under the Beach Hut. Carol Seddon is definitely mellowing; she rents a beach hut, not entirely legally! This is what comes of being a doting grandmother. Unfortunately, before she can take possession of this desirable property, ‘human remains’ are found underneath it. Another mystery for Carol and Jude (who *still* has no surname). As usual, I’m amazed at people’s willingness to talk to the pair, where most of us would put down the phone or shut the door in their nosy faces. It still makes for an enjoyable read and I can’t see why the series shouldn’t run for ever.

The other crime novel I’ve read recently is a new-to-me Miss Silver novel, The Traveller Returns. This is a Brat Farrar-style identity mystery. Anne Jocelyn was killed on a beach in Brittany in 1940 and was buried by her husband. Three years later she returns to England. Is she really Lady Jocelyn or her cousin, Annie Joyce? It’s a good story made more interesting by the wartime background and *spies*. One of Patricia Wentworth's best, I think.