RogerBW's Blog

The Affair of the Blood-stained Egg Cosy, James Anderson 03 February 2016

1975 cosy detective fiction; first of Anderson's novels of the Earl of Burford and Inspector Wilkins. Some time in the 1930s, there's a house party at Alderley, including the Earl's political brother and the foreign dignitaries he's negotiating with, an American millionaire called Hiram, and various others. Nobody is quite what they seem, and that's even before jewels start going missing and guests start turning up dead.

This is something of a parody of the English country-house murder mystery, but it's a parody that clearly comes from a place of love. There are certainly humorous touches, but they are never allowed to derail the plot or the characterisation, and there's a perfectly good technical murder mystery in here as well as the Detective Inspector who feels he's been promoted above his abilities, and explains: "Don't expect me to solve anything. I'm not sanguine, not sanguine at all."

In fact it's one of the most complicated murder mysteries I've encountered, with valuable but distinctly functional firearms, a stable clock audible throughout the house so that everyone can remember what time things happened, possible spies, a hugely sophisticated burglar alarm so that nobody can enter or leave the house without setting it off, a secret passage, and comings and goings in the middle of the night narrated by three separate characters and involving most of the others. I'm not ashamed to say I didn't crack this one, though I spotted some of the side issues.

Yes, all right, the characters are mostly archetypes, but so they are in most country-house murder stories. Anderson's enthusiasm for the genre is always visible, and even at the grimmest moments there's a sense of authorial enjoyment, of "see what I did there", for which I'll forgive many more sins than Anderson actually commits. Even the multi-chapter Gathering in the Drawing Room that makes up most of the last quarter of the book, in which various people are put in the frame and then removed from it again, works rather well.

(ObNitPick: there is an error in the matter of the antique pistol, which couldn't have been produced at the date given, but that's sufficiently obscure that I think it may even have been deliberate.)

I shall definitely be reading more in this series. Followed by The Affair of the Mutilated Mink.

[Buy this at Amazon] and help support the blog.

Comments on this post are now closed. If you have particular grounds for adding a late comment, comment on a more recent post quoting the URL of this one.

Search
Archive
Tags 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 3d printing action aeronautics aikakirja anecdote animation anime army astronomy audio tech base commerce battletech beer boardgaming bookmonth chain of command children chronicle church of no redeeming virtues cold war comedy computing contemporary cornish smuggler cosmic encounter coup cycling dead of winter doctor who documentary drama driving drone ecchi espionage essen 2015 essen 2016 essen 2017 existential risk falklands war fandom fantasy film firefly first world war flash point food garmin drive gazebo geodata gurps gurps 101 harpoon historical history horror hugo 2014 hugo 2015 hugo 2016 hugo 2017 hugo-nebula reread in brief avoid instrumented life kickstarter learn to play leaving earth linux mecha museum mystery naval non-fiction one for the brow opera perl photography podcast politics powers prediction privacy project woolsack pyracantha quantum rail ranting raspberry pi reading reading boardgames social real life restaurant reviews romance rpg a day rpgs science fiction scythe second world war security shipwreck simutrans south atlantic war squaddies stationery steampunk stuarts suburbia superheroes suspense television the resistance thirsty meeples thriller tin soldier torg toys trailers travel vietnam war war wargaming weather wives and sweethearts writing about writing x-wing young adult
Special All book reviews, All film reviews
Produced by aikakirja v0.1