RogerBW's Blog

I, Said the Fly, Elizabeth Ferrars 10 October 2022

1945 murder mystery. Kay Bryant lives in a grotty bedsit in London; as her neighbour is having a gas fire installed, the workmen turn up a revolver under the floorboards, and it's linked to the murdered former tenant of the flat. Suspicion follows.

Indeed, the body of the book is about the suspicion: it looks very much as though whoever hid the gun, and perhaps the murderer, must be one of the residents, and they all end up accusing each other, in increasingly strident (not to say hysterical) tones. There's also a significant thing that Kay, the viewpoint character, knows which isn't mentioned until really quite late in the story.

What makes the business a little more interesting is that it's told in flashback: a frame story has Kay revisiting the street some years later, after the house has taken a direct hit from a bomb, and running into the investigating officer from back in the day. (This is the sort of thing that I naïvely expected most fiction written and published in wartime to do, before I started reading a lot of them and realised that mostly people didn't want to read about anything touching on the war – they got enough of that from the newspapers.)

When Kay visits a cinema:

She […] spent a comfortably unthinking couple of hours watching a heavy-jowled hero trying to establish his claim to a blonde heroine and being incredibly clumsy about this relatively simple business. There was a good deal of self-sacrifice in the story, not to mention slugging and jumping in and out of aeroplanes and on the whole Kay felt that she was having her money's worth.

There are also little bits of interesting contemporary detail: Kay has separated from her husband, but they haven't bothered to get divorced, because it's an expensive business and they'll come under disapproving scrutiny. It's suggested that two women might have been "passionate friends" without anyone raising an eyebrow. Even though everyone's scrimping and saving, they casually go out for most of their meals.

I'm finding these early Ferrars enjoyable: she's perhaps a bit prone to shrill nervy characters who are hard work to read and harder to sympathise with, but she gets well into their heads, and has a pleasant writing style.

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