There is something very comforting about detective fiction. Better than the happy-ever-after of romance, it’s the (hopefully) neat tying-up of all loose ends and the “Oh! Of course!” or “Hah! Knew it!” of the answer. It’s the question asked at the start of the novel being answered.
I like puzzles – I’ve whiled away several afternoons with a pocket book of codewords recently, and dug out a deck of cards for a few days of Patience (Klondike, or what Microsoft calls Solitaire). I always enjoy the crossword and su doku at the end of my cross-stitch magazines. It’s very satisfying to get to the end. To have worked it out.
But with mystery novels, I tend to just wait and see, though the occasional, stray thought along the lines of “You – I hope it’s you!” does cross my mind. Sometimes I’m right, and sometimes I’m not, but I don’t sit there with pen and paper trying to make timelines or break alibis.
Anyway, I’m at an end, I think, of the unread Crime Classics from my shelves, so I will have to see what I can do about getting more.
The Case of the Gilded Fly, by Edmund Crispin
A pretty, spiteful actress is found dead in a college room. With any number of people who would have liked to shoot her, can unconventional don Gervase Fen work out who could have shot her?
I liked this. It was amusing, both the characters and the narrative tone, and the mystery sufficiently locked-door-ish. The girl is found within a minute or two of the gunshot being heard, since it happens in the college room below Fen’s, where he is entertaining, and it appears to have been set to look like a suicide. Who had the time to do adjust the scene before they found her?
I liked the writing, which was concise without losing any description, and the characters, especially Gervase Fen, and I note this is the first of several Fen novels. There is an amusing scene when Fen, in demonstrating why the death could not have been a suicide, hands a gun to his wife and asks her to show how she would shoot herself. Forgetting that it’s loaded, he absently agrees that she should pull the trigger. Fortunately, the rest of the room stop her, and Mrs Fen, used to such behaviour, loses none of her amiability.
I’m just sorry it took me so long to read this. I picked it up several years ago and it’s sat on the shelf ever since.
Mr Campion and Others, by Margery Allingham
A collection of short stories featuring amateur detective Albert Campion, during which he assists friends, family and the police in various criminal adventures.
What I like about collections of short stories is that it’s easier to dip in and out. You don’t have to worry about the end of a chapter being too exciting to just stop there.
I already liked Campion, and Allingham’s writing, from a previous outing with Coroner’s Pidgin, and this collection didn’t disappoint, even with the slight lack of dead bodies. Can’t have everything, I suppose, and it’s difficult to have a murder committed and solved in a few thousand words. But these are a good way to while away moments of waiting – or will be when there are moments of waiting again.