Although historical fiction is my passion, I find that whenever I am stressed out I resort to the calming embrace of vintage crime. This may seem odd to a few of you but I find few things as soporific as a good Christie novel or film. In fact, rather embarrassingly, for the weeks that preceded the vile moving house experience, I watched NOTHING but the ITV Marple adaptations on repeat while locked away in our bedroom.
Now, purists may well loathe and detest the ITV series but I happen to love it with a passion even if they can be cringe inducingly awful at times and play fast and loose with the original plot by changing the identity or motivation of the murderer, adding peculiar subplots or even shoehorning Miss Marple into stories that she has no business being in. I still love them though for their vibrancy and kitschy glamour. In fact I am watching At Bertram’s Hotel right now and loving it.
My other big passion is, of course, the novels of Georgette Heyer so it was inevitable that sooner or later I would have a break from her Regency novels and give her mystery novels a whirl and if you are a fan of both Christie and Heyer as well then I’d recommend you do so as well, unless of course you already have.
Heyer’s murder mysteries have a dark sparkle that is missing from Christie’s works but if you are a fan of her Regency novels then the language employed by her characters can be more than a bit disconcerting as they tend to speak in the exact same way, using the same idiom and slang. Except these aren’t the dashing habitués of Regency London speaking, but their 1930’s descendants who motor down to the country at weekends, work in respectable and well qualified professions in the city or law and like nothing better than a dinner with chums at their clubs.
You’ll find echoes of her Regency characters here too – in A Blunt Instrument (1938), there is an estranged but secretly madly in love married couple who would later inspire Nell and Cardross in April Lady (1957).
‘Tell me this, Helen; would you have married me if I had not been a rich man?’ – A Blunt Instrument.
‘Had I not been possessed of a large fortune, you wouldn’t have married me, would you, Nell?’ – April Lady.
Anyway, so far in this spree of well bred crime and debonair iniquity, I have read: A Blunt Instrument (very good and extremely amusing in places); Death in the Stocks (also very good although you can spot the killer a mile off); Footsteps in the Dark (less good but has some good moments) and am now half way through Why Shoot a Butler? (I’m not sure that I am enjoying this one to be honest but I’ll persevere). I still have quite a few to go but am having a break after Why Shoot a Butler? to read I Remember You by Harriet Evans and Daisy Goodwin’s My Last Duchess. I’ll be reviewing them all when I’m done.
In summary, if you enjoy Christie and Heyer then you’ll probably enjoy these books – especially if you absolutely delight in Heyer’s dry humour, excellent use of language and sparkly characterisation. Ever wondered what the delightful Freddy from Cotillion would be like if he was a washed up 1930s alcoholic? You’ll find out in Death in the Stocks...
Of course all of this makes excellent preparation for tomorrow when I will be spending the day pretending to be a 1930’s housewife for Proctor and Gamble! There’s even going to be video evidence of me doing my chores! Gosh golly.