A couple of crimefic reviews to catch up on today.
First up, Lord Peter
by Dorothy L. Sayers.
This is a volume of all the short stories written by Dorothy L. Sayers about Lord Peter Wimsey. Like most anthologies it's a mixed bag but unlike most anthologies even the ones that're not superb are good, there are no duds here. I've actually been reading this since July so a few of those first stories are lost in the mists of time but these are a few of my favourites that I made a note of:
The Abominable History of the Man With Copper Fingers
. The first story in the collection and one of those stories retold in a men's club by an actor about his experiences of a famous wealthy man and his penchant for revenge. Genuinely menacing and creepy.
The Unprincipled Affair of the Practical Joker
. A phantom coach and horses with a headless driver story. Was not expecting that from Dorothy L. Sayers! Honestly, this was a 'cracking' yarn. I loved it.
The Learned Adventure of the Dragon's Head
. Wimsey is looking after his young nephew who is recovering from an illness. He takes him to a bookshop where said nephew buys an old book of weird drawings. Then the owner tries to get them back. Why? This one was an absolute joy
. Loved it.
The Image in the Mirror
. A man is reading an H.G. Wells story, The Plattner Experiment
, about a man who was blown into the fourth dimension and came back with all of his organs reversed. The man tells Wimsey that he was bombed in WW1 and also came back with his organs reversed. Absolutely fascinating story and I must dig out the original Wells' story.
The Incredible Elopement of Lord Peter Wimsey
. An adventure set in the Pyrenees. A doctor is living an isolated and lonely life with his wife in the mountains. Village gossip has it that the wife's mental state is very bad but she was fine when she arrived. This one has Wimsey pretending to be a magician... great stuff and huge fun but also quite an air of menace about it too.
The final two stories involve Wimsey and Harriet Vane becoming parents.
The Haunted Policeman
has Wimsey outside having a smoke after the birth of his first son. A policemen comes up and tells him a very weird story about a house numbered 13 in which he saw that a murder had been committed but on further investigation the next day turned out not to exist.
. Peter and Harriet now have three sons and are on holiday at Talboys. A female relative is staying with them who thinks the boys are not being brought up correctly and this seems to be confirmed when Bredon, Wimsey's eldest, aged six, is caught pinching peaches. When the tree is stripped the next day Bredon's accused but swears he didn't do it. The boy and Peter join forces to find out who did. Loved, loved, loved this. Particularly the snake named Cuthbert...
A really fantastic volume of short stories. Beautifully
written as you might expect and, something I didn't really expect, quite weird. I absolutely loved this weird or supernatural tone to some of the stories and several had a real air of menace about them that was unexpected too. As I said before, even the average stories in this book knock spots off some by other authors. Terrific collection.
Lastly, The Pure in Heart
by Susan Hill.
DCI Simon Serailler is in Venice on holiday when he gets a call from his father asking him to come home as his disabled sister is in hospital gravely ill. Having lost a colleague in a brutal manner in a previous investigation Simon is in Venice to recuperate, but answers the summons immediately. Not long after he gets back a young boy is snatched from the street outside his own house, with obvious results for the parents. And an ex-con returns to Lafferton, trying to go straight but will circumstances allow this?
Well it's quite a few years since I read the excellent first book in this series, The Various Haunts of Men
. I planned to read this second book quite quickly but discovered it was about a missing child. I don't do children being harmed in books very well so I left it, and left it, and in fact it's now 10 years since I read the first book. And that's a shame. Yes, there is a missing child in the story and it is quite heart rending. But the book also focuses on Simon and his family. I won't call them dysfunctional exactly but there are problems, Simon gets on very badly with his father, his mother has always been distant, Simon himself does not treat women very well. The person Simon adores is his sister, Cat, and being with her and her lively family basically keeps him sane. Susan Hill does psychology extremely well, and I like that. She realises nothing is ever black or white and I thoroughly enjoy the manner in which she examines family relationships, crimes, people's motives, with a fine tooth comb. As a writer she is a class act. There is no firm resolution at the end of the book, reflecting life as it often is of course. I gather book 3 continues on with the investigation so have promptly reserved it from the library.