RogerBW's Blog

Remove the Bodies, Elizabeth Ferrars 02 April 2022

1940 murder mystery. Toby Dyke the journalist vaguely knows the young and naïve Lou Capell, so when she comes to him in tears wanting a place to sleep and to borrow fifteen pounds, he provides them, even though she refuses to explain why. Soon afterwards, he gets a phone call saying she's been murdered… US vt Rehearsals for Murder.

It's an odd book. All the pieces of a mystery are there, but the style is farcical: people are always interrupted just as they are about to disclose important information, and there are constant comings and goings even when two people are having a quiet chat in the woods. And someone is setting little murderous traps, like a match that'll start a fire when the door is closed or a spring-loaded needle, but making them harmless by adding a pan of water or leaving out the poison.

It does get a bit formulaic at times, and the characters are both numerous and determinedly unmemorable, but there's still the germ of something a bit beyond the standard mystery that was already fading away and would largely be killed off by the war. Ferrars is still very early in her career here, and the homage to Christie is sometimes rather obvious, but she's finding her own voice too. I rather liked it.

(And what was the significance of the sergeant recognising the poison? It's specifically called out later so presumably something was meant to be developed from it, but then it's just ignored.)

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Previous in series: Give a Corpse a Bad Name | Series: Toby Dyke

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