The Property of a Gentleman, Catherine Gavin
The Missing Sister, Dinah Jefferies
Teddy: her Daughter, Anna Chapin Ray
Spella Ho, H E Bates
Who Killed Dick Whittington? E & A M Radford
The Case of the Haven Hotel , Christopher Bush
The Case of the Housekeeper’s Hair , Christopher Bush
The Deans Move In, Kathleen Fidler
Family Afloat, Aubrey de Selincourt
The Property of a Gentleman, published in 1974, surprised me by having a theme which is very common in modern romantic novels. Joanna works for Hardy’s, a big auction house. At the start of the story, her mother Vanessa has just been killed in a plane crash and she meets her artist father for almost the first time. Gerald Stanton, her mother’s friend, has been her guide and mentor at Hardy’s. She drives him to Thirlwall, an old house in Cumbria, where he’s been invited by the owner without knowing the purpose of the visit. Jo finds the house full of treasures but also of ghosts and mysteries and run by creepy servants. There’s even a ‘smart rich boyfriend in London versus rugged local farmer’ plot. This is for people who like reading about old houses and antiques and shows that apparently dated and forgotten novels can be well worth reading.
Dinah Jefferies picked another exotic location for her latest novel. Belle goes out to join a troupe of girls as a singer in Burma, where her parents once lived. Their baby, Elvira, disappeared from her pram in the garden and her mother was suspected of killing her. The parents returned to England and Belle was sent to Cheltenham Ladies’ College (so how did she end up being a nightclub singer?) Belle is determined to solve the mystery of her little sister’s disappearance but finds there are people prepared to stop at nothing to prevent her discovering the truth. Sadly, I thought this the worst of Jefferies’ books so far, couldn’t believe a word of it and, in my review for NetGalley, wrote that it would be kinder to say nothing about the book.
Teddy: her Daughter was presented as a Sunday School Prize in 1911 and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a book of that age in such good condition. Perhaps it had never been read until it fell into my hands! It’s the sequel to Teddy, her Book which I haven’t read. Teddy now has a teenage daughter and is forever protecting her ‘little girl’ from sophisticated activities like going to dances. This reminded me rather of Dr Carr and the way he wanted Katy and Clover to grow up. The story, such as it is, covers two holidays, the first by the East Coast (I’m guessing here) and then in Montana. There’s obviously no shortage of money in this family. Young Betty learns to be a kinder person and, although so young, seems to have met her possible future husband in a boy she at first scorned. I’m always interested in these old moral books so I did quite enjoy it, although Teddy is very snobbish.
I’d never heard of H E Bates’ Spella Ho (1938) and thought it was worth a punt at 50p. The dustwrapper image I found online. I was mystified by the title; Spella Ho turns out to be a large house, the focus of the book. Bruno Shadbolt lives in a hovel within sight of the house and it exerts a strange fascination over him. Although completely uneducated, he’s shrewd and gradually make money until he is able to buy the house. The book is an account of his dealings, his love affairs, his toughness and eventually, his loneliness. A strange book, yet memorable.
E & A M Radford were a husband and wife writing team who produced several Doctor Manson mysteries. Who Killed Dick Whittington? was published in 1947 and is a classic ‘actor murdered on stage right in front of the audience, how is this possible?’ story. Manson is referred to sometimes as Doctor, sometimes as Chief Inspector and very often as ‘the scientist’. That might as well be THE SCIENTIST, since so much is made of his scientific methods of investigation, which are described in great detail. The book is all about the case and the forensic way the Doctor solves it. Although set in the theatre and with a subplot about insurance fraud, none of the characters make much impression. This is another new release from Dean Street Press (currently available for 99p) and worth reading if you’re a classic crime fan.
The Deans Move In was a very lucky 50p find. An enjoyable family story about a pleasant family having to move from Whitby to Wigan and finding it not so bad after all. It’s the first Deans book and I really liked it.
Family Afloat (50p again), is the first book in a series about the Rutherford family: father, mother and young daughters Anne and Elizabeth. I’ve read a couple of the later books and quite enjoyed them, yet I found this one rather boring. The Rutherfords sail their yacht Tessa to France and very uncomfortable it seems. The girls sleep in the saloon, which is also the dining room and it must have ponged dreadfully because the food is cooked on a stove which uses meths for fuel and the three grownups (they are joined by ‘Cousin Bob’), smoke all the time. They never seem to wash! Their idea of washing is ‘bathing’, i.e. swimming in the sea, which is full of slops thrown overboard from their own and other boats. Yuk. I found the technical boating information too much for me (there’s even a glossary of terms at the back of the book), even though I can put up with any amount of sailing lore from Arthur Ransome. The girls know their way around a boat but otherwise seem complete dimwits, mooning about wanting adventures and then being extremely credulous when they think they’ve found one. Swallows and Amazons Forever!