Review: THE EXILED by Kati Hiekkapelto

Kati Hiekkapelto’s third novel to feature Finnish-Hungarian policewoman Anna Fekete is another of the titles on this year’s Petrona Award shortlist; the announcement of which was just the impetus I needed to catch up with the series. And though I have enjoyed its two predecessors very much I think THE EXILED is in a whole different class. It is an outstanding read.

Though I have travelled a reasonable amount I was born and have lived all my life on a giant island with naturally stable borders and politics. A very long way from everywhere else on the planet. Which helps, I hope, explain why places with more fluid and volatile geography and political situations are both fascinating and alien-seeming to me. Keeping up with events in such places via the news can be difficult as there’s an ‘other-worldiness’ that adds distance from my own day-to-day experiences. What good fiction, such as THE EXILED, can offer that factual reporting often lacks is a way to humanise the situations and make them, paradoxically, more realistic.

In this novel Hiekkapelto sends her heroine ‘home’. Or at least to the place she was born. The town of Kanisza was a Hungarian community in Yugoslavia when Anna and her family fled it in the 1990’s. Her mother and brother have returned to the town which is now part of Serbia and where those residents who only speak Hungarian need translators to carry out official business. Throughout the book there is a heartfelt and credible exploration of what constitutes ‘home’ for Anna and people like her who feel like outsiders no matter where they go. But the exiled people of the book’s title are even more clearly homeless. Focus in this story is on two groups of dispossessed souls: the streams of refugees fleeing the Middle East into Europe and the Roma people who have never felt welcome irrespective of how long an association they’ve had with a location.

Our entry into these worlds is, not surprisingly, via a crime. Though at least initially it’s a much more minor one that genre fans might be used to as Anna’s handbag is stolen while she is out with friends one night. When she reports the theft to the local police she learns that the thief was a young Romani man. And that he died soon after taking her bag. When Anna realises that the police do not seem interested in investigating the death she investigates on her own and begins to unravel links to an event in her own family’s past. It’s a very layered and compelling story about small town life and the damage we can do when we try to cover up a mistake.

Taking the series away from the familiar surroundings and characters is something of a risk but Hiekkapelto has provided enough of the ‘known’ to keep series fans happy as Anna catches up with her surviving family members and even maintains an email connection to one of her Finnish colleagues. Seeing a different aspect of Anna’s story as she reconnects with old friends and exposes greater depth in her relationships with her mother and brother makes her a more interesting character than ever for me.

I enjoyed the audio narration of the book but should report that Julie Maisey makes no effort to sound anything other than English. I prefer this to poor attempts at accents (if you could even work out what accents would be appropriate for this setting and its people of multiple heritage lines) but some commenters have remarked that it doesn’t feel right to them. However you read it, I would urge you to track down Kati Hiekkapelto’s THE EXILED which is topical, thoughtful and totally compelling. As a bonus it could easily be read as a standalone novel if you haven’t yet read the two earlier books in the series.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

I have reviewed this book’s two predecessors THE HUMMINGBIRD and THE DEFENCELESS

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Narrator Julie Maisey
Translator David Hackston
Publisher This edition Audible Studios 2016
ASIN B01LXPOI53
Length 9 hours 29 minutes
Format audio (mp3)
Book Series #3 in the Anna Fekete series
Source of review copy I bought it

Posted in book review, Kati Hiekkapelto, Serbia | 2 Comments

Review: BLOWBACK by Bill Pronzini

When it began I thought the most annoying thing about my choice for this month’s Crimes of the Century read would be that its protagonist’s name is never provided. I’m prepared to accept that Ralph Ellison or Graham Greene might have been making a deep or existentially interesting point when choosing this particular literary device but in virtually every other instance I’ve encountered it I am underwhelmed. Here too I was soon rolling my eyes at the clunky way a fictional nameless chap is forced to wander through life being referred to vaguely. But, unfortunately, this was far from the most annoying thing about the book.

That was, without doubt, its central premise which is in summary, when a woman uses the allure of her vagina no man can be held accountable for his actions.

I know the book is 40 years old but I’m tired of making allowances for this mindset regardless of the era in which it is depicted. Because let’s face it the attitude has not been consigned to history’s dustbin.

So, story-wise at least, BLOWBACK was a dud for me. It is a quite convoluted tale set in northern California in which a nameless private investigator is asked by an old army buddy to attend his fishing camp. There is a woman there whose vagina is causing mayhem amongst all the people with penises (OK they’re not the exact words Harry uses to get his nameless friend involved but it’s what he means). There is a lot of flirting and innuendo, then a dead Persian rug dealer turns up. The resolution, you should not be surprised to discover, has nothing to do with carpets and everything to do with evil vaginas.

All of that said I should point out the highlight of the book which is our nameless hero. He is very well drawn despite his nameless existence. He seems very realistic and Pronzini does a great job of showing us how he is feeling during the series of precarious situations he encounters. The best example of this is that throughout the story he is awaiting news about whether a lesion on his lung is benign or not and the way he struggles with this is quite beautifully depicted. He’s a ‘blokey bloke’ and keeps his worries to himself but the first-person point of view allows us to get a sense of how daunting he is finding the whole experience of facing his own mortality in a different way than he must have done during his years in the army or police force.

Because of that I am on the fence about whether or not to give Pronzini another go as an author. Perhaps those of you familiar with his work can recommend something with less evil vaginas.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Narrator Doug Hamilton
Publisher This edition Speaking Volumes 2013, Original edition 1977
ASIN B01MS7D8MO
Length 5 hours 42 minutes
Format audio (mp3)
Book Series #4 in the nameless detective series
Source of review copy I bought it

Posted in Bill Pronzini, book review, USA | 7 Comments

Review: WHY DID YOU LIE? by Yrsa Sigurdardottir

The multiple-threads-without-obvious-connection novels are coming thick and fast these days but few are as skillfully realised as Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s standalone novel WHY DID YOU LIE?

There are three strands which all, on the face of it, sound a little dull. Or at least not very mysterious. A policewoman struggles to cope with her husband’s attempted suicide; unable to make the decision to remove his life support despite there being no hope of his return to health. A family returns to Iceland after a house-swapping holiday to discover some odd things not as they would have expected. Four people head to the very inhospitable lighthouse on Thrídrangar (basically a large rock sticking out of the sea) to undertake some maintenance and have to stay longer than they planned.

I was a good third of the way into the book before realising that nothing traditionally ‘thrilling’ had happened yet but I was completely hooked. I’m not sure I can explain why. Part of it is the expectation: the sense that things will…eventually…go awry and Sigurdardottir makes the anticipation work. She cuts between the three strands at exactly the right moment. Not in a James-Patterson “cliffhanger at the end of every 3-page chapter” kind of way. But we spend enough time with each set of characters to be invested in learning more about their respective situations but not too much that we become bored. There’s lots of suggestion and doubt and misdirection too so that even the savviest of crime fiction readers will not be able to predict everything that happens. Even when things do start to knit together – when we start to see why bad things are happening to this disparate group of people – it’s still not clear which of the characters we’ve come to know is responsible for the mayhem.

Something else which helps build the suspense is the ordinariness of the characters. They are people who are easy to identify with because they’re people we recognise…people like us. When their lives slowly start to unravel the unease they must be feeling is all too easy to imagine. I also like that the characters are understated. Not filled with quirks and psychological damage or other obvious elements designed to make them stand out.

The psychological thriller label is used too often but in the case of WHY DID THEY LIE? it is apt. It is unsettling rather than bump-in-the-night scary but that’s just what I like.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Narrator Katherine Manners
Translator Victoria Cribb
Publisher Hodder & Stoughton, 2016
ASIN B01EXXZ0CW
Length 11 hours 11 minutes
Format audio (mp3)
Book Series standalone
Source of review copy I bought it

Posted in book review, Iceland, Yrsa Sigurdardottir | 7 Comments

Review: I’M TRAVELLING ALONE by Samuel Bjork

One of the things I generally like about European crime fiction is that it isn’t as full of psychopaths and violence as mainstream American and English novels can be but this one seems squarely aimed at that market. It’s undoubtedly a smart move economically, those books sell like the proverbial hot cakes, but it doesn’t fully engage me. Dead children in odd costumes. A religious cult. Several characters fueled by madness including a serial killer with a convoluted motive. A police squad full of eccentric geniuses, including one with a death wish. The loved ones of our heroes in danger. To me I’M TRAVELLING ALONE seemed as if it had been penned by someone more familiar with a “10 tips for great thriller writing” checklist than actual crime fiction of the kind I like.

The forces of good are represented by an ageing, overweight chap called Holger Munch.He’s divorced with an adult daughter and a 6 year old granddaughter he adores. His closest colleague is Mia Kruger. A thirty-something loner, bordering on alcoholic, who is planning her own suicide when the book opens. For reasons that become clear as the story progresses. For me the most compelling police character is young Gabriel, a hacker who has taken a ‘real’ job now that his girlfriend is pregnant. The way he approaches the transition from one sphere to the other (teenager to adult, potential criminal to police worker) seems most real to me and I’d have liked to see more of him.

Evil is represented by a somewhat confusing cacophony of characters and story threads, at least one of which is almost entirely pointless. Perhaps this wouldn’t have bugged me as much if the book hadn’t been so long. There is a lot of exposition here and countless 2-page spreads without a paragraph break or dialogue…just endless words. The story was just engaging enough to keep me reading (with only a moderate amount of eye-rolling) but I will admit to skimming some of the exposition.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Translator Charlotte Barslund
Publisher This translation Corgi, 2015 (original edition 2013)
ISBN 9780552170901
Length 524 pages
Format paperback
Book Series #1 in the Munch & Kruger series
Source of review copy I bought it

Posted in book review, Norway, Samuel Bjork | 4 Comments

Books of the month: March 2017

Pick of the month

The good news is my reading picked up in both quantity and quality during March but the downside of that is it takes more effort to choose a favourite read of the month. After see-sawing between two I’m going with Sarah Ward’s A DEADLY THAW which I thought excellent.  It has a mixture of contemporary and cold case elements, addresses a confronting theme in a realistic way and is not predictable. I don’t get surprised all that often by procedurals anymore and am always pleased when it happens.

The rest, in reading order 

  •  Jørn Lier Horst, ORDEAL (a solid series back on top form)
  • Elizabeth Edmondson, A MAN OF SOME REPUTE (a historical mystery set in post war Britain that I enjoyed as I listened but a day later couldn’t remember enough about it to string together a proper review)
  • Laura Lippman, WILDE LAKE (a thought-provoking look at the way time can make our actions and behaviour look very different but an unlikeable central character kept this from being a great read for me)
  • Candice Fox, CRIMSON LAKE (first book in a new series featuring two fractured characters seeking justice in different ways)
  • Margery Allingham, THE CASE OF THE LATE PIG (my Crimes of the Century read for the month was another irksome tale of the English upper class)
  • Meg & Tom Keneally, THE UNMOURNED (second in a series set in colonial Australia from the father/daughter duo was a terrific romp and very atmospheric)
  • J.M. Peace, THE TWISTED KNOT (second book from a serving police officer that really makes you question what constitutes justice)
  • Sally Andrew, RECIPES FOR LOVE AND MURDER (a South African cosy with dark overtones that is only enhanced by the audio format)
  • Ellery Adams, MURDER IN THE PAPERBACK PARLOR (my next read in the series that takes place in a retreat for book lovers, I can’t help but wish myself there)
  • Agatha Christie, SPARKLING CYANIDE (I listened to a narration by Hugh Fraser and was thoroughly captivated, even if I didn’t quite believe all the suspects would have love as a motive for murder)
  • Adrian McKinty, GUN STREET GIRL (the 4th book in the Sean Duffy trilogy is another cracker of a read – or listen – and was vying for favourite of the month but wasn’t as surprising as the one I selected)

Progress on bookish goals

aww2017-badgeAustralian Women Writers Challenge: Read & Review 25 books 

5 down, 20 to go. Heading in the right direction at least.

image borrowed and edited from http://theviewfromthebluehouse.blogspot.com.au/2010/02/classic-crime-curriculum.htmlParticipate 8 times in Crimes of the Century

3 down, 5 to go. Looking good for this one.

mount-tbr-2017Read 36 books owned prior to the start of the year and/or reduce the TBR to less than 100 (from 131)

Better progress this month with 7 of my books read belonging to my pre-2017 collection, bringing my total of pre-owned books read for the year to 14. But with acquisitions taken into account my TBR now stands at 128 which is a paltry a reduction on the year’s starting total. At least it’s downward movement this month.

Image sourced from http://mumsgrapevine.com.au/2014/01/7-ways-to-buy-australian-made/

Buy no physical or eBooks from stores outside Australia (Audio books are my exception)

So far so good.

USAFictionChallengeButtonRead at least 10 books eligible for my virtual tour of the US via its fiction (each one set in a different state and by a new-to-me author).

Did not add to my tally this month, my yearly total read is a paltry 2.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

What about you? How did your reading go in March? Any books you need to recommend? 

Posted in Adrian McKinty, Agatha Christie, books of the month, Candice Fox (Aus), Elizabeth Edmondson, Ellery Adams, J.M. Peace (Aus), Jorn Lier Horst, Laura Lippman, Margery Allingham, Meg Keneally (Aus), Sally Andrew, Sarah Ward, Tom Keneally (Aus) | 7 Comments

2017 Mt TBR Challenge – Mountaineering Checkpoint #1

In an effort to get my unread book count under control I joined the My Reader’s Block Mount TBR Challenge this year. I didn’t want to be unrealistic so aimed to read at least 36 books that I owned prior to the start of this year. With a quarter of the year over I have read 14 eligible books which qualifies as a modest success (if I keep up this pace I will meet my goal, but of course the more time passes the more I am tempted by new titles).

  1. Tom Keneally – Crimes Of The Father
  2. Cath Staincliffe  – The Silence Between Breaths
  3. Sheila Connolly- Red Delicious Death (no review)
  4. Josephine Pullein-Thompson – Gin And Murder
  5. Kate Dyer-Seeley  – Scene Of The Climb
  6. Ariana Franklin & Samantha Norman – Winter Siege (no review)
  7. Rebecca Bradley – Shallow Waters (no review)
  8. Elizabeth Edmondson – A Man Of Some Repute 
  9. Margery Allingham – The Case Of The Late Pig
  10. J.M. Peace – The Twisted Knot
  11. Ellery Adams – Murder In The Paperback Parlor
  12. Agatha Christie – Sparkling Cyanide
  13. Sarah Ward – A Deadly Thaw
  14. Adrian McKinty – Gun Street Girl

According to the challenge progress chart I have reached Pike’s Peak and am a few steps up Mount Blanc.

I’m keeping track of books read over here, if there are any unread books on the list you think I need to read now let me know

Posted in memes and challenges, progress report | 6 Comments

Review: A DEADLY THAW by Sarah Ward

Sarah Ward’s second police procedural to link a present-day crime with Derbyshire’s recent past is a knockout. Certainly the best example of the genre I’ve read so far this year. The most difficult thing about reviewing it is explaining why I think that without giving too much away. But I’ll have a go.

Firstly there’s the story. It opens with a body being discovered in an abandoned building. Nothing very original there you might be thinking. But the dead man is quickly identified as Andrew Fisher; a man who was supposedly killed a decade ago. The husband who Lena Fisher has served an entire prison sentence for murdering. I’m not going to give you any more plot details but will say the twists kept coming and kept surprising me. Lots of novels have a good premise. The elevator pitch if you will. But A DEADLY THAW is one of the much rarer offerings that has an intriguing premise and manages to deliver ever more intrigue until the very end.

As with Ward’s first novel, 2015’s IN BITTER CHILL, I think the main character is DC Connie Childs but she is not such a lone wolf that she is able to investigate crime without assistance. Her boss, the enigmatic DI Francis Sadler, and fellow DC Damian Palmer are both very involved in the investigation. We are exposed to a little of their personal lives (but not too much) and we see how difficult and frustrating their professional lives can be. People lie and obfuscate and forget. And for every tip that leads somewhere useful there are a dozen or more that go nowhere but, of course, you don’t know which is which until the time is wasted. Who’d be a cop eh?

We also see a lot of the civilians who are involved in or impacted by the case in some way. I like that the book lets us see things from different perspectives, not just that of the police. Among the people we meet here are Lena Fisher and her sister Kat who has never known why her sister murdered her husband (or whoever he was) and is now caught up in more inexplicable mess brought into her life by her secretive sister. Their relationship is complex but believable.

It must be near-impossible for a genre author to come up with something even vaguely original these days but Sarah Ward’s mix of contemporary procedural and cold case storyline does so. I really liked the way A DEADLY THAW unfolded, showing how events of the past can have a long-lasting effect and also offering a sobering reminder that one person’s perspective on events is rarely the whole story. I think what I liked most about the book was its deliciously unsettling resolution. Sometimes doing the right thing is downright dangerous.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Publisher Faber & Faber, 2016
ISBN 9780571321032
Length pages
Format paperback
Book Series #2 in the Connie Childs series
Source of review copy I bought it

Posted in book review, England, Sarah Ward | 6 Comments

A.C.E. Mini Reviews

The title of this most means nothing. Or almost nothing. Other than that I have finished books by authors whose surnames begin with A, C and E in the past few weeks and I’m never going to get around to writing full reviews of any of them.

Ellery Adams’ MURDER IN THE PAPERBACK PARLOR is the second in this prolific, cosy author’s series set in a fictional place called Storyton Hall (located in Virginia if I recall correctly). It is a luxury hotel which caters to book lovers. In this outing there is a romance readers convention being held at the Hall and one of the authors is murdered. I love the setting (why doesn’t this exist in the real world?) and the characters are a fun mix. Several of the key players have an important, secret job guarding one of the world’s most amazing libraries which adds a nice element to the books (though I’m not convinced they’re on the right track with their keeping certain publications locked away for being too dangerous, sounds awfully like book banning to me). Adams writes well and doesn’t talk down to her readers. I reviewed the first in this series more thoroughly.

Agatha Christie’s SPARKLING CYANIDE in audio format, narrated by Hugh Fraser was most enjoyable. I imagine I’ve read the print version at some stage though as it doesn’t feature one of her better known protagonists so perhaps not. I didn’t remember the story anyway. It concerns the apparent suicide of the young wife of a somewhat stodgy businessman. Some time after her death he becomes convinced that her death, which occurred while the couple were dining and dancing with friends, was not as self-inflicted as it appeared. The characters are well drawn and they are all given believable motives for wanting the woman dead, though it would have been nice if at least one of them wasn’t to do with being madly in love. Hugh Fraser is a top notch narrator.

Elizabeth Edmondson’s A MAN OF SOME REPUTE in audio format as narrated by Michael Page was enjoyable to listen to but even a day after finishing I could barely recall its most salient details. It’s a historical mystery set in post-war Britain. The hero is Hugo Hawksworth, an intelligence officer who is wounded enough that he has to take a desk job. He’s also got a young sister (or niece?) to look after as her (his too?) parents are dead. He’s staying at a Castle from which the Earl who should be in charge of the place disappeared without trace some years earlier. Early on a skeleton is discovered and, assuming it is the Earl, Hugo and a couple of other trustworthy chums try to unravel matters. I finished this over a week ago now and couldn’t tell you the resolution if you tortured me for it (not that I anticipate you doing that) so I’m afraid I must assign this to the perfectly readable but largely forgettable class of book.

 

Posted in Agatha Christie, Elizabeth Edmondson, Ellery Adams, mini review | 2 Comments

Review: RECIPES FOR LOVE AND MURDER by Sally Andrew

RECIPES FOR LOVE AND MURDER introduces the world to Tannie Maria, a fifty-something, Afrikaans, widow living in the town of Ladysmith in the Klein Karoo region of South Africa. She writes a cooking column for the local paper but the publication’s sponsors want an ‘agony aunt’ style advice column instead so Tannie Maria, ever the pragmatist, combines the two concepts. She’ll solve people’s problems with her common sense advice and offer the perfect recipe for every situation. One of the first letters she receives is very troubling as it is from a woman who is being abused by her husband. This situation brings back painful memories of Tannie Maria’s own marriage. When the letter-writer is murdered Tannie Maria, worrying that her advice to leave the marriage might have led to the woman’s death, feels obligated to become involved in the investigation.

I suspect the labelling of this book as a ‘cosy’ mystery will be an automatic turnoff for some people but I would urge them to ignore the term and give the book a go anyway. Sure it has some very light-hearted moments that you wouldn’t find in a noir novel and there’s not a lot of on-page sex or violence but that doesn’t prevent the book from tackling some important subjects in a substantial and intelligent way. Issues such as domestic violence and the hypocrisy that can be inherent in some religious practice are threaded throughout the story in such a way that they cut through what might otherwise be too ‘cute’ or ‘sweet’ while still leaving the book with its overall positive and sunny sensibility.

Tannie Maria is a terrific character. She is smart, funny and down-to-earth. She has gotten on with her life, soldiering through the difficult times in a very practical way and not let her bad experiences completely bring her undone. Though she is not ridiculously upbeat or unrealistic as some cosy heroines can be. She is lonely and has insecurities too. It’s a complex and quite nuanced depiction and I suspect there is a lot more to learn about this character so I’ll be looking for the already published second book in the series very soon. There are some wonderful minor characters too including Tannie Maria’s colleagues Hattie, the newspaper’s editor, and Jessie, an eager young reporter. The official investigators include a sombre but thorough policeman who acts as a love interest for Tannie Maria. Even some of the letter writers, several of whom write more than once, add a nice layer of characterisation.

And of course there’s the food. There are more recipes than murder here as Tannie Maria’s go to response for any situation or problem is food. She brings food to her colleagues, cooks meals for the policeman, tracks down vegan cake recipes for the Seventh Day Adventist kids who play a role in the story and, of course, provides recipes to all the people who write in to the paper seeking her help. This is not a book to read when you’re hungry.

The story itself here is probably the most ‘standard’ thing about the book in that it is a fairly traditional whodunit with lots of red herrings and a large pool of suspects which have to be investigated and discarded one by one. Although the ultimate resolution is satisfying this element of the book is probably the only one I could quibble with as there are some parts of the story that are a bit too far-fetched. But it only happens a couple of times and I was having so much fun that I easily forgave Andrew this indulgence.

I opted for the audiobook version of RECIPES FOR LOVE AND MURDER which is narrated by South African actor Sandra Prinsloo and feel that this format really added to my enjoyment of the book. There’s lots of Afrikaans language scattered throughout the story and I always enjoy hearing foreign language words pronounced properly and Prinsloo’s accent, tempo and voice work fitted the story to perfection. In combination with Andrew’s evocatively drawn setting I really did feel like I was being transported to the other side of the world as I became absorbed by this story.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Narrator Sandra Prinsloo
Publisher Lamplight Audio 2015
ASIN B016QU67JK
Length 11 hours 27 minutes
Format audio (mp3)
Book Series #1 in the Tannie Maria series
Source of review copy I bought it

Posted in book review, Sally Andrew, South Africa | 4 Comments

Review: THE CASE OF THE LATE PIG by Margery Allingham

I think I always knew that golden age detective fiction wasn’t really my bag (the inimitable Dame Christie aside) but participating in Crimes of the Century has confirmed it. This month’s foray into 1937 introduced me to Margery Allingham’s most famous creation: Albert Campion. I now know that this story is something of an aberration in that it is told in the first-person point of view by Campion but I’m not sure a more straight-forward narrative would endear the character to me more strongly.  He is, to me, (yet another) upper crust Englishman surrounded by a phalanx of servants, private school chums and cap-doffing sycophants and the whole set up makes me squirm.

In his favour Albert Campion did not irk me quite as much as Ms Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey (who I met last year) but that’s not actually saying a lot. I suppose I was predisposed to irritation given the first lines of the story

“The main thing to remember in autobiography, I have always thought, is not to let any damned modesty creep in to spoil the story. This adventure is mine, Albert Campion’s, and I am fairly certain that I was pretty near brilliant in it in spite of the fact that I so nearly got myself and old Lugg killed that I hear a harp quintet whenever I consider it.”

I’m not much of a one for an unfettered ego. The rest of the characters meld into a couple of stereotypes in my memory; insipid for the women, in-bred old school chum for the chaps. Not counting Lugg of course who is Campion’s … manservant I suppose…and an ex (?) criminal whose purpose was lost on me.

The story was a complicated thing to do with disguised bodies, dodgy doctors and some fairly obvious wordplay. When reading the print version I had no clue what was going on by the end because I just wasn’t interested enough to pay attention. So I had another go at it by downloading the audio book and listened while stuck in traffic. That format was more agreeable (or there was less for me to be distracted by) and at least I cottoned on to the salient points of the plot but it still seemed to be one of those golden age novels that was telling a story that no one could ever mistake for reality, not even for a moment. Or maybe there was a world in which people acted and spoke like utter gits but if so it’s not a world I’m particularly engaged by.

Over at Tipping My Fedora Sergio talks much more positively and eloquently about this book and Ms Allingham in general but one point on which we agree is that there is more than a hint of P.G. Wodehouse about this tale which might be all you need to know. I have never gotten on with Wodehouse but if you do then I suspect you’ll like Albert Campion. But then you probably already know that.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Narrator David Thorpe
Publisher Audio edition Audible Studios 2013, Paperback edition Penguin 2009, original edition 1937
ASBN B00BQG9AF8
Length 4 hours 14 minutes / 138 pages
Format audio (mp3) / paperback
Book Series #8 (or #9) in the Albert Campion series
Source of review copy I bought both editions

Posted in book review, England, Margery Allingham | Tagged | 26 Comments