Sunday, 6 November 2011

Review:- Cyril HARE - “An English Murder“

REVIEW:- Cyril HARE - “An English Murder“ (also published as 'The Christmas Murder')
Year Published: - 1951
Where the book was from:- My own copy
Pages: - 269pp (Large Print Edition)
Genre: - Cosy Crime
Location:- Fictional English county of Markshire - early 1950s
How I came across it: - My 1951 work for the Books Published in the first years of my life challenge

Rating: - ***** ****

One sentence summary:- Perfect cosy crime set in the era when men were men, women were women and butlers were butlers!

Describe the plot without giving anything away:- Warbeck Hall is an old English country house and the scene of an equally classic English murder at Christmas. All the necessary ingredients are there and the crime is cleverly undertaken. We have an assortment of family members and 'friends' thrown together in a snow-bound country hall with tea and cake, a faithful butler, a peculiar foreigner, snow falling and the church bells at Midnight. Although one of the persons marooned there is a policeman the detective work is far from conventional.

General comments:- Excellently written. Not only does the hall and its inhabitants come to life – despite the cold – but the plot is decidedly novel (or is it?). If you are fortunate enough to read it you will see why I put the 'or is it' in brackets. Thoroughly recommended for any cosy crime enthusiast and as na example of simple but excellent English in the style of the early 1950s.

His lordship is better, thank you. He is up but not yet down.”
“Up, but not yet down,” repeated Dr Bottwink thoughtfully. “Up, but not down! English is a beautifully expressive language.”

“I have never been greatly interested in politics, sir.”
“Oh, Briggs, Briggs,” said the historian, shaking his head in regretful admiration, “if you only knew how fortunate you were to be be able to say that.”
(Bearing in mind the novel was written in 1951, just six years after the War ended. Dr Bottwink, a Jew, had been pushed / fled from country to country and been in a concentration camp.)
Lord Warbeck, waking from the light sleep of an invalid, saw from his window his lawns and garden with the parkland beyond and he Markshire Downs in the far distance uniformly white. The fine details of the landscape gone, the outlines smoothed and thickened by the covering of snow. It would all have looked exactly the same, he reflected, to anyone lying in that bed on such a morning at any time since Capability Brown remodelled the plantations in the park, nearly two hundred years before.

“Indeed I'm relying on you to tide me over Boxing Day. Nothing could be more ill-bred in a host than to choose such a moment to expire.”

The room seemed to be suddenly full of women. The quiet, masculine atmosphere of the library, redolent of wood smoke and old calf bindings, was charged with a new, disturbing element, made up of feminine scents and sounds.
“Very good, madam.”
Briggs' voice was completely devoid of expression. By no movement of limb or feature did he give the smallest indication that the order was anything but a perfectly normal one. A well-trained butler is schooled to repress his feelings on such occasions. None the less, by some occult means he contrived to convey to every person in the room that he was outraged by the proposal. How he did it, it was impossible to say. Such subtle means of communication are the secrets of telepathists and well-trained butlers.

AUTHOR Notes:- Cyril Hare was the pseudonym of Judge Gordon Clark. Born at Mickleham near Dorking in 1900, he was educated at Rugby and New College, Oxford. At the bar his practice before World War II was largely in the criminal courts. During the War he was on the staff of the Director of Public Prosecutions; but afterwards, as a County Court judge, his work concerned civil disputes only - and his sole connection with crime was through his fiction. He turned to writing detective stories at the age of thirty-six and some of his first short stories were published in Punch. Hare went on to write two series of detective novels, starring Inspector Mallet or Francis Pettigrew. He also wrote two independent novels – 'An English Murder' and 'The Magic Bottle'. Gordon Clark died in 1958.

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful review! And it sounds the perfect book for me. I read all sorts of stuff, but sometimes I crave a nice cosy English mystery. I get so tired of all the blood, gory and depravity that passes for plotting these days. Bah humbug! :0)


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