Turning Chinese #7: Death in the House of Rain (2006) written and translated by Szu-Yen Lin

Another Oriental locked room mystery, another uniquely shaped house, this time in the shape of the Chinese character for rain.

A year ago the owner, Jingfu Bai, his wife and their daughter, were all brutally killed. The man seen hurrying from the scene took his own life whilst in police custody and the case was closed. But on the anniversary of the triple-tragedy Death returns once more to the House of Rain.

Jingfu’s brother, Renze has taken possession of the palatial country house – it contains, amongst other things, a piano room, a movie room, badminton hall, tennis court and probably room for a pony as well (the three-storey floor plan is an aficianado’s dream) – and has invited Ruoping Lin to re-open the investigation. His daughter, Lingsha, has university friends staying for the weekend and one by one they start to die in violent and impossible ways.

This is another excellent story with a beautiful piece of cluing which in hindsight is so obvious but I completely overlooked it at the time. The identity of the killer is culturally appropriate although I can see that some could be disappointed. The characters do act as stupidly as if they were in  a horror movie – leaving their bedrooms alone on the slightest provocation: I know you are temporarily cut-off from the outside world, but stock up from the kitchen and lock yourself in your room until the police do arrive – but then this is a staple of crime fiction from the Golden Age. The weekend houseparty always continues regardless of the fact that a murder has been committed.

Detailed Spoilers (highlight to read): I’m sure the basic premise has been used elsewhere – I’ve just never come across it before and I didn’t pick up on it even though I’d just read a completely different book where a woman was died when her feet were cut off by a lift – but the way that Lin uses it to explain an impossible beheading, strangling, fall from nowhere, a faked suicide, and then in the epilogue relates it back to the original case, is so wonderfully thorough. And even the title is fairplay – we’re primarily not dealing with murder here, just death, although our (incorrect) assumption is that murder is what has taken place.

Previous posts in this series:

The Tokyo Zodiac Murders by Soji Shimada

The Moai Island Puzzle by Alice Arisugawa

The Honjin Murders by Seishi Yokomizo

Murder in the Crooked House by Soji Shimada

The Inugami Curse by Seishi Yokomizo

The 8 Mansion Murders by Takemaru Abiko

#56 – Hickory Dickory Dock

Poirot’s most efficient secretary, Miss Lemon, who never makes mistakes has just made three in the same letter. She explains that this must be because she is worried about her sister, Mrs Hubbard, who is the warden of a student hostel. A number of thefts have taken place over the last few months but there seems to be no link between them – the items taken range from a ring and a bracelet to electric lightbulbs and boracic powder.

Poirot meets the students in the guise of giving them a lecture on crime but suggests that there is nothing he can do and that the matter should be turned over to the police. This triggers off a series of events that lead to murder.

This is one of the few Christie’s that I saw on TV before reading the book and in this case the TV adaptation is superior. There are too many students in the hostel in the book and only the primary suspects are retained for the Suchet version. The nursery rhyme title has very little to do with the plot but the adaptation used the mouse motif to good effect, creating some interesting camera angles from a ground-level mouse eye’s level perspective. In addition some key information which is just dumped at the end of the book is woven more closely into the main narrative.

There is a nice piece of deduction as Poirot determines which of the thefts are really important, but overall there is too much going on here, including one connection between two characters revealed at the end that seems to come from nowhere.

What is most interesting is some of the attitudes about race, some of which are highlighted by this exchange:

“Really, dear,” said Nigel, “you’re not suggesting that she’s below the age of consent or anything like that, are you? She’s free, white, and twenty-one.”

“That,” said Mr Chandra Lal, “is a most offensive remark.”

“No, no, Mr Chandra Lal, ” said Patricia. “It’s just a – a kind of idiom. It doesn’t mean anything.”

“I do not understand,” said Mr Akibombo. “If a thing does not mean anything, why should it be said?”

We are unlikely to use the phrase that Nigel uses above any more, but there are probably phrases that are common currency which some groups may find offensive, but that the majority group have given no thought to. If someone tells me that they find something I have said is offensive which was unintended, then I shouldn’t need to feel defensive (although I may well) but I should be ready to listen and understand. Being more careful with language as someone from the dominant group costs me very little but could make someone else’s day a little better or a little less worse.

Recurring character development

Hercule Poirot

Now that he can get square crumpets he has nothing to complain about, although I’ve never come across a square crumpet.

Won a memory game called the Three Horned Lady at a Christmas party.

Has met Inspector Sharpe before in the unrecorded “business down at Crays Hill”.

Miss Lemon

Her first name, Felicity, is revealed for the first time.

She is perfecting a new filing system which will be patented and bear her name.

Signs of the Times

Miss Lemon is said to have no imagination and therefore to be unlike “Cortez’s men upon the peak of Darien” a reference to Keats’ poem “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer” which compares his sensations when reading George Chapman’s translation of Homer’s epics, among other things, to the feelings of Hernan Cortez and his men when they first saw the Pacific Ocean. Keats was actually guilty of misremembering his history as it was actually Vasco Nunez de Balboa who was the first European to see the Pacific.

Reflecting on the triviality of Miss Lemon’s sister’s problem, Poirot thinks of “the parsley sinking into the butter on a hot day” which is how Sherlock Holmes was drawn into “the dreadful business of the Abernetty family” an unrecorded case mentioned in “The Adventure of the Six Napoleons”.

Sally Finch is studying in England on a Fulbright scholarship. In 1945 US Senator J. William Fulbright proposed a bill to create an international student exchange programme to be funded from selling surplus war property and equipment. President Harry Truman signed it into law in 1946.

Mrs Nicoletis wants to keep her house attractive to Americans by getting rid of any black tenants as she believes the “colour bar” is important to them, but Mrs Hubbard strongly opposes this.

Celia danced with Nigel at Cambridge in May Week. This celebrates the end of the university’s exam period and, as the Fourth Doctor observed whilst punting in The Five Doctors, now takes place in June.

Poirot says that the shoe was taken as your poet says “to annoy, because he knows it teases”. This is part of a lullaby sung by the duchess to the baby in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll.

The day after Poirot’s first visit, the Oxford Group is mentioned at breakfast by Jean. This was a Christian movement founded in 1921 by Frank Buchman as First Century Christian Fellowship, becoming the Oxford Group by the end of the 1920s. In 1938 it became Moral Re-Armament and in 2001 Initiatives of Change.

Politics is then added to religion when Chandra Lal mentions the Mau Mau. The derivation of the name is unclear, with the group’s official name being the Kenya Land and Freedom Army. The KLFA rebelled against British colonial rule in 1952 but were defeated in 1956. However their activities paved the way for eventual independence in 1963.

Inspector Sharpe quotes “I know two things about the horse and one of them is rather coarse” which is by the writer Naomi Royde-Smith (1875-1964).

Valerie works at the shop “Sabrina Fair”. DC McCrae considers the name blasphemous as it is from Milton – specifically the 1634 masque “Comus”. It had been used as the title of a 1953 play by Samuel A. Taylor.

References to previous works

One of the students remembers Poirot from reading about the events of “Mrs McGinty’s Dead”.

During his lecture Poirot refers to the soap manufacturer in Liège, an old case which he first mentioned in “The Nemean Lion” in “The Labours of Hercules”.

Poirot turns for information to Mr Endicott who refers to “the nasty Abernethy (sic) business” from “After the Funeral”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turning Japanese #6: The 8 Mansion Murders (1989) by Takemaru Abiko (translated by Ho-Ling Wong)

Kikuo Hackisuka, owner of a construction company, built his own house in the shape of a digitally-displayed number 8. He had no idea that its very design would inspire someone to commit murder there.

His elder son, Kikuichiro, is the first victim, shot in the middle of the night by a crossbow, and it seems that only one person could possibly have done it. Fortunately for him, Inspector Kyozo Hayami, is more open-minded than some of his colleagues and begins to dig a little deeper. This ultimately results in a second murder but this time there are no possible suspects.

Kyozo is hindered by his hapless subordinate, Kinoshita, who suffers from worsening slapstick-style accidents as the investigation progresses, and helped by his sister and brother. After explaining one minor point which has baffled the police, the latter is allowed to deliver his own Locked Room Lecture* before solving the case.

The solution to the first murder put me in mind of two books by John Dickson Carr: one for a good reason, the other for a bad as there is a small element that could be considered deliberately unfair and didn’t really add anything in my mind. The answer to the second killing I definitely hadn’t come across before but whilst theoretically possible seems unlikely but then most of us don’t read this sort of book expecting likely, practical solutions.

The Locked Room International version includes a fascinating introduction by Soji Shimada and helpful author’s and translator’s end notes which explain some of the Golden Age and cultural references found in the text.

*Both of which include spoilers of varying degrees to other works. I’m afraid I can’t advise what as I skimmed some to avoid titles that I haven’t yet read and don’t want to look at them again.

Previous posts in this series:

The Tokyo Zodiac Murders by Soji Shimada

The Moai Island Puzzle by Alice Arisugawa

The Honjin Murders by Seishi Yokomizo

Murder in the Crooked House by Soji Shimada

The Inugami Curse

 

The House of Silk (2011) and Moriarty (2014) by Anthony Horowitz

There’s so much good original crime fiction that I’d sworn off pastiches and continuations, but Horowitz’s own stuff is so good, and the latter had been recommended to me recently by, I think, JJ, that at £1 each I had to pick these up.

Although set in the same world, they are two very different beasts.

“The House of Silk” sees an aged Watson take up his pen to document two inter-linked cases: The Man in the Flat Cap and The House of Silk which for reasons that he says will become apparent he was not able to publish at the time. I was very impressed by the first case which had some very good ideas, but not so much by the second which felt like padding – but then if you’re going to publish a novel these days it seems like quantity can often be expected, sometimes to the detriment of quality. The prison break incident (slight spoiler – highlight to read) was also very well put together.

Points of interest for the Sherlockian are:

  1. Much speculation has been given to the number of times that Watson was married. In the preface he confirms that it was just twice.
  2. In the canon, Lestrade’s first initial is given as “G”. Here we learn that this stands for George.
  3. The Adventure of the Copper Beeches was first published in Strand Magazine in June 1892. This book is set in winter 1890 yet one character has already read this story as published in Cornhill Magazine. For players of The Game, does this mean that this story is automatically not a genuine case?

“Moriarty” is set immediately after the fateful events at the Reichenbach Falls and sees narrator, Frederick Chase, a Pinkerton agent, join forces with Inspector Athelney Jones (The Sign of Four) to investigate a ruthless Americna criminal who had been planning an alliance with Moriarty before the latter’s demise. This is the better of the two books and is able to stand on its own merits: within the world that Conan Doyle created, but with enough separation from the primary characters of Holmes and Watson.

My slightly spoilerish theories which I was quite wrong about are:

  1. Jones seemed so like Holmes, that I first thought he was Holmes in disguise – until he took Chase home to meet his wife and we find that he has become an ardent disciple of the great man’s methods.
  2. Holmes actually had died with Moriarty and that the later cases were those of Jones and Chase written under the Watson name – this, to me, explained why Chase had drawn our attention to the inadequacies of the explanations for Holmes survival provided in The Adventure of the Empty House.

A very enjoyable double dose of Holmes and Horowitz – but only the latter is a must-read.

#55 – Destination Unknown

Thomas Betterton is the latest top-level scientist to have disappearedwithout a trace. The security services are concerned but have no possible way of penetrating the organisation responsible until Betterton’s wife dies in hospital following a plane crash and suicidal lookalike Hilary Craven is persuaded that there is a more worthwhile way of doing away with herself than taking the tablets she has bought up from the pharmacies of Casablanca.

So Hilary becomes Olive, hoping that she may be picked up to join her “husband” but even if she can get inside whatever is going on there is no guarantee that she will be able to get out again.

I had read this before but couldn’t remember anything about it, for the simple reason that there is nothing to remember – a thriller without thrills and a very slight mystery with no real clues. One for completists only.

Signs of the Times

The story is set in 1953.

I don’t know who first came up with the disappearing scientist plot, but this, published in 1955, comes before another recent re-read “The Dark Crusader” (1961) by Alistair Maclean and “The IPCRESS File” (1962) by Len Deighton – an excellent film, but a terrible book.

Betterton had been working at Harwell for eighteen months before his disappearance. Originally an RAF base during the Second World War, Harwell became home to the Atomic Energy Research Establishment. Its nuclear facilities are currently in the process of being decommissioned with the work due to end in 2025.

Mention is made of “witch hunts in America” and “the Committe of Investigation of un-American Activities” references to McCarthyism and the seeking out of actual, but mostly just suspected, communists and almost anyone of a left-wing persuasion.

Hilary recalls the quote ” as a garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse” which is taken from the biblical book, the Song of Songs (or Solomon).

Miss Hetherington reads a Fontana book. Fontana was a paperback imprint of Collins, Christie’s publishers. I found a great page of covers here which includes a number of Christie’s (although one at least is a spoiler of sorts) and other mystery authors.

Morocco is a French colonial possession. The French Protectorate in Morocco lasted from 1912-56.

It appears to be the American Peters, rather than Hilary, who refers to “the four freedoms you talk about in your country. Freedom from want, freedom from fear…” before being cut off. This is odd because the four freedoms were defined by US President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941, with the other two being freedom of speech and freedom of worship.

What Else I’ve Been Reading Recently

Puzzle for Wantons (1945) by Patrick Quentin

Lorraine Pleygel is so happy with her own love life that she attempts to help her three closest friends with theirs by bringing their soon to be divorced husbands to join her house party in the hope of a rapprochement. This is obviously a terrible idea and whilst a first sudden death is covered up, after a second it is clear that there is a murderer in their midst.

There is so much going on here that I defy anyone to solve this – at one point I thought “Ah, so it’s one of that type” but I was completely wrong. Definitely better than the previous outing for the Duluths “Puzzle for Fools”.

Maigret in Vichy (1967) by Georges Simenon

Maigret’s doctor finally notices that he does not have the healthiest of lifestyles and sends him to Vichy to take the waters, thus rendering the Maigret drinking game redundant for this book. He may still smoke his pipe though! Naturally he gets pulled into a murder case by an ex-colleague and helps find the tragic truth at the heart of the matter.

 

10:30 from Marseille aka The Sleeping Car Murders (1962) by Sébastien Japrisot  (translated by Frances Price)

Georgette Thomas is found strangled after all the other passengers have disembarked from the Marseille to Paris night train. The police try to track down the five people who shared her compartment only to find that they start being murdered as well. Can they stop the killer before they complete a macabre half-dozen?

This was a re-read and whilst I remembered two quarters of the solution, I put them together wrongly and so was pleasantly surprised by just how much was going on in this one. A genuine puzzle in a suitably French wrapping.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sing a Song of Sixpence

When I posted my most recent crossword on Facebook I said it was the last for the time being as I was working on Something Completely Different…well here it is.

Inspired by the pastiche songs used on the excellent children’s TV series “Horrible Histories” I decided to have a go at putting together my own song related to detective fiction.

As I wasn’t planning on broadcasting to a national audience, I felt copyright issues were unlikely to come into play, so I took an existing tune in full – one that has received a lot of recent airplay – and added an Agatha Christie related lyric with appropriate images.

You can enjoy (hopefully!) my efforts here.

#54 – A Pocket Full of Rye

Rex Fortescue, his wife, and parlourmaid are all murdered in quick succession by a killer who has made only one mistake that they couldn’t possibly have foreseen – Gladys, the maid, used to work for Miss Marple and she will let nothing get in the way of her duty to help solve the very wicked murder of her former employee.

Grains of rye were found in Rex’s jacket pocket, Adele had been eating bread and honey for tea, and a clothes peg had been clipped onto Gladys’ nose – Miss Marples believes these are all connected to the nursery rhyme “Sing a Song of Sixpence”.

She is aided by Inspector Neele, who is delightfully described as:

“a highly imaginative thinker, and one of his methods of investigation was to propound to himself fantastic theories of guilt which he applied to such persons as he was interrogating at the time.”

And yet despite this quality, even he cannot put together a theory for what has happened, and it is Miss Marple with her comprehension of human character who sees her way once again to the truth.

I think this book is the first time where Miss Marple’s role is clearly marked out as Nemesis when Inspector Neele thinks:

“that Miss Marple was very unlike the popular idea of an avenging fury. And yet that was perhaps exactly what she was.”

This case is extremely personal for Miss Marple – we have come along way from the parlour game solving of “The Thirteen Problems” – which is seen in some of the most powerful last lines in a Christie:

“The tear rose in Miss Marple’s eyes. Succeeding pity, there came anger – anger against a heartless killer.”

But even this over-ridden by the satisfaction of a job well done – she could not have saved Gladys from her fate, but she has played in her part in seeing her murderer is not unpunished:

“And then, displacing both these emotions, there came a surge of triumph – the triumph some specialist might feel who has successfully reconstructed an extinct animal from a fragment of jawbone and a couple of teeth.”

The solution, for me, is ingenious – it is at once ludicrous and yet perfectly fits this particular set of characters.

Recurring character development

Miss Marple

She is tall – at least from Crump’s perspective  – but light and spare.

Inspector Neele recognises that although she doesn’t look like the popular idea of an avenging fury, that is exactly what she is. This foreshadows her later role as Nemesis.

Her maids come from St Faith’s Home.

Her house is called Danemead.

Signs of the Times

Post-war rationing is still in evidence. Miss Grosvenor’s legs are “encased in the very best and most expensive black-market nylons”. The Fortescue’s have no scruples and can get hold of as much butter, eggs, and cream as they want.

When Rex Fortescue is taken ill there is confusion as to who to call. Possibly a hospital but which one – “It has to be the right hospital or else they won’t come. Because of the National Health, I mean. It’s got to be in the area.” Whether people at this time would really have been confused is unclear. The main problem is that for reasons of respectability they don’t immediately call 999.

When told that the dead man’s pocket contained cereal, Inspector Neele asks if it is breakfast cereal and mentions Farmer’s Glory and Wheatifax. Googling the former I found some promotional wooden figures which had been issued in the 1930s. The brand was owned by Alley Brothers and was a form of toasted wheat flakes, claimed to be the first British breakfast cereal. Searching for the latter only returns the passage from the book in various translations.

Inspector Neele was brought up at the lodge at the gates of Hartington Park, now taken over by the National Trust. The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty was formed in 1895 and given statutory powers in 1907. It became the owner of many country houses and stately homes in the mid-1900s as owners could not afford the upkeep or the death duties.

Miss Ramsbottom wonders if Inspector Neele has come about the wireless licence. My Grandma who was born in 1920 always referred to the radio as the wireless. A wireless licence was introduced in the UK in 1923 at a cost of 10 shillings per year following the creation of the British Broadcasting Corporation in 1922. No licence to listen to the radio was required from 1971 onwards.

Sergeant Hay feels that “Alice in Wonderland” is the type of content that would appear on the Third Programme, to which he does not listen. This was the third of the BBC’s radio networks after the Home Service and the Light Programme and ran from 1946 to 1967 after which it was replaced by BBC Radio 3. It was deliberately highbrow, criticised as being elitist for reasons such as broadcasting “two dons talking” but was supported by Ellen Wilkinson, the Education Secretary, who had written “The Division Bell Mystery” in 1932.

Miss Ramsbottom’s father was a strict Plymouth Brother. The Brethren movement actually began in Dublin in 1827 before being introduced to England in  1831 at Plymouth.

Percival suggests that Lance might climb Mount Everest. Although this book was published in December 1953 after the world’s highest mountain had been conquered in the May, it was probably written before anyone had succeeded in doing so.

Mention is made of the wonders that M and B makes in treating pneumonia. Sulfapyridine is an antibiotic which was commonly known as M&B 693 as that was the code given to it by May & Baker, the chemical company whose chemist, Lionel Whitby, discovered it.

References to previous works

Inspector Neele becomes aware of Miss Marple’s reputation during the case and when he mentions it, she replies that Sir Henry Clithering is a very old friend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#54 – A Pocket Full of Rye – WITH SPOILERS

Rex Fortescue, his wife, and parlourmaid are all murdered in quick succession by a killer who has made only one mistake that they couldn’t possibly have foreseen – Gladys, the maid, used to work for Miss Marple and she will let nothing get in the way of her duty to help solve the very wicked murder of her former employee.

Grains of rye were found in Rex’s jacket pocket, Adele had been eating bread and honey for tea, and a clothes peg had been clipped onto Gladys’ nose – Miss Marples believes these are all connected to the nursery rhyme “Sing a Song of Sixpence”.

She is aided by Inspector Neele, who is delightfully described as:

“a highly imaginative thinker, and one of his methods of investigation was to propound to himself fantastic theories of guilt which he applied to such persons as he was interrogating at the time.”

And yet despite this quality, even he cannot put together a theory for what has happened, and it is Miss Marple with her comprehension of human character who sees her way once again to the truth.

I think this book is the first time where Miss Marple’s role is clearly marked out as Nemesis when Inspector Neele thinks:

“that Miss Marple was very unlike the popular idea of an avenging fury. And yet that was perhaps exactly what she was.”

This case is extremely personal for Miss Marple – we have come along way from the parlour game solving of “The Thirteen Problems” – which is seen in some of the most powerful last lines in a Christie:

“The tear rose in Miss Marple’s eyes. Succeeding pity, there came anger – anger against a heartless killer.”

But even this over-ridden by the satisfaction of a job well done – she could not have saved Gladys from her fate, but she has played in her part in seeing her murderer is not unpunished:

“And then, displacing both these emotions, there came a surge of triumph – the triumph some specialist might feel who has successfully reconstructed an extinct animal from a fragment of jawbone and a couple of teeth.”

The solution, for me, is ingenious – it is at once ludicrous and yet perfectly fits this particular set of characters.

Recurring character development

Miss Marple

She is tall – at least from Crump’s perspective  – but light and spare.

Inspector Neele recognises that although she doesn’t look like the popular idea of an avenging fury, that is exactly what she is. This foreshadows her later role as Nemesis.

Her maids come from St Faith’s Home.

Her house is called Danemead.

Signs of the Times

Post-war rationing is still in evidence. Miss Grosvenor’s legs are “encased in the very best and most expensive black-market nylons”. The Fortescue’s have no scruples and can get hold of as much butter, eggs, and cream as they want.

When Rex Fortescue is taken ill there is confusion as to who to call. Possibly a hospital but which one – “It has to be the right hospital or else they won’t come. Because of the National Health, I mean. It’s got to be in the area.” Whether people at this time would really have been confused is unclear. The main problem is that for reasons of respectability they don’t immediately call 999.

When told that the dead man’s pocket contained cereal, Inspector Neele asks if it is breakfast cereal and mentions Farmer’s Glory and Wheatifax. Googling the former I found some promotional wooden figures which had been issued in the 1930s. The brand was owned by Alley Brothers and was a form of toasted wheat flakes, claimed to be the first British breakfast cereal. Searching for the latter only returns the passage from the book in various translations.

Inspector Neele was brought up at the lodge at the gates of Hartington Park, now taken over by the National Trust. The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty was formed in 1895 and given statutory powers in 1907. It became the owner of many country houses and stately homes in the mid-1900s as owners could not afford the upkeep or the death duties.

Miss Ramsbottom wonders if Inspector Neele has come about the wireless licence. My Grandma who was born in 1920 always referred to the radio as the wireless. A wireless licence was introduced in the UK in 1923 at a cost of 10 shillings per year following the creation of the British Broadcasting Corporation in 1922. No licence to listen to the radio was required from 1971 onwards.

Sergeant Hay feels that “Alice in Wonderland” is the type of content that would appear on the Third Programme, to which he does not listen. This was the third of the BBC’s radio networks after the Home Service and the Light Programme and ran from 1946 to 1967 after which it was replaced by BBC Radio 3. It was deliberately highbrow, criticised as being elitist for reasons such as broadcasting “two dons talking” but was supported by Ellen Wilkinson, the Education Secretary, who had written “The Division Bell Mystery” in 1932.

Miss Ramsbottom’s father was a strict Plymouth Brother. The Brethren movement actually began in Dublin in 1827 before being introduced to England in  1831 at Plymouth.

Percival suggests that Lance might climb Mount Everest. Although this book was published in December 1953 after the world’s highest mountain had been conquered in the May, it was probably written before anyone had succeeded in doing so.

Mention is made of the wonders that M and B makes in treating pneumonia. Sulfapyridine is an antibiotic which was commonly known as M&B 693 as that was the code given to it by May & Baker, the chemical company whose chemist, Lionel Whitby, discovered it.

References to previous works

Inspector Neele becomes aware of Miss Marple’s reputation during the case and when he mentions it, she replies that Sir Henry Clithering is a very old friend.

SPOILERS

The choice of Gladys as first murderer is brilliant for a number of reasons. Firstly she is a servant and S. S. Van Dine’s rules tell us that servants are not allowed to be murderers. Secondly she is connected to Miss Marple and just like Jessica Fletcher’s close friends and relations in “Murder, She Wrote” can’t possible be the killer, despite all the evidence against them – at least I’ve never seen one where they were!

So although she virtually confesses to Inspector Neele:

“I didn’t do anything. I didn’t really. I don’t know anything about it.”

He (and we) overlook the fact the she looks guilty and terrified because that is what witnesses, especially of her class appear to be.

Second murderer Lance Fortescue is so obviously a bad hat that again we overlook him as too obvious a red herring, especially as he has an alibi for the murder of his father – which we should have been immediately suspicious of!

I love the clue about the Russian truth drugs hidden amongst Gladys’ newspaper cuttings, which themselves are just another item within her room. It reminds me of other clues such as the contents of the passengers’ luggage in “Death in the Clouds” and the contents of Mrs Ascher’s room in “The ABC Murders” – the one bit of gold in a list of rubbish – and yet identifying the treasure is so hard to do.

The whole scheme works because of Gladys’ naivety – we are told by Miss Marple that “she was a very silly girl” and “the credulous type”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soapy Joe! It’s the Answers to the Inspector French Cryptic Crossword!

If you are still stumped after a week, here are the answers. The original puzzle can be found here.

Set-up

  1. The answers are all words or phrases taken from what I believe are the titles of the 30 novels featuring Inspector Joseph French.
  2.  English titles are used throughout.
  3.  Each title is only featured once.
  4.  In the case of single word answers, none are trivial e.g. of, it, he etc.
  5. Slight knowledge of one of books is required but there are no spoilers in the clues or solutions.
  6.  One Inspector French title has been replaced by a different Carter Dickson title – what is missing and what has been added?

Clues

Across

1. Has Heseltine hidden the trophy? (5) Golden ASHES

5 and 21 down. Customary question answered by genius (8,2,7) ANYTHING TO DECLARE?

6. Boy heard stealin’ (5) Young ROBIN Brand, Detective

8. Travels around to get here (7) Inspector French and the STARVEL Tragedy

9. A very loud tune is bad for the partnership (6) The AFFAIR at Little Wokeham

11. Hear music magazine is against us (5) ENEMY Unseen

13. I go to the loo (4) Sir JOHN Magill’s Last Journey

14. Footballer scores then stops playing (7) French STRIKES Oil

22. See 24

24 and 22. n (3,3,2,6,8) THE END OF ANDREW HARRISON

25. Before yet get there, change ye hat now (2,3,3) Death ON THE WAY

26. Peter is shorted to Max (6) Inspector French and the CHEYNE Mystery

27. Former quizmaster thanks right reverend insect (7) James TARRANT, Adventurer

28. Keeps all the pigs (4) The HOG’S Back Mystery 

29. Direct fashion designer inhales nitrogen (7) Mystery in the CHANNEL

30. Try opening old city with energy (7) Fatal VENTURE

Down

2. Two short men these days say nothing (7) SILENCE for the Murderer 

3. 150% (roughly 100) found in Buckinghamshire (8) Fear Comes to CHALFONT

4. Contains sack, perhaps? (4) The CASK – the non-French title – Crime at Guildford was omitted 

7. Lieutenant is cut down but retains his position (6) The Box OFFICE Murders

10. Unloading toffee carelessly but drug-free is possible outcome for 12 (5,8) FOUND FLOATING

12. Kasparov plays and gets rinsed (3,9) MAN OVERBOARD!

15. Ted, unshaded, could quickly suffer effect of severe heat-stroke (6,5) SUDDEN DEATH

16. A secret stage could be his acme (8,4) Inspector French’s GREATEST CASE

17. Port ruined Thomas Upton (11) Mystery on SOUTHAMPTON Water

18. C? (3,7) The SEA MYSTERY

19. Love according to the song guarantees itself (6,4) The LOSING GAME 

20. Jean proves to be ship-shape (4,6) The Loss of the “JANE VOSPER”

21. See 5 across

23. I have no more poison within (5) Antidote to VENOM

26. 102 men meet in London (7) The 12:30 from CROYDON

27. Constrained rocket (5) Death of a TRAIN