Vintage Reading Challenge – March 2018

Bats in the Belfry by E. C. R. Lorac

Fulfils “Who – an artist/photographer”

Bruce Attleton disappears shortly after a discussion with his family and friends on how best to dispose of a body. Why is his suitcase found in a crumbling studio called the Belfry? Who is the mysterious Debrette who may have been blackmailing him?

These are the questions that Inspector Macdonald must answer, but his task becomes more complicated, and more serious, when an unidentifiable corpse is discovered.

A complete aside, but I loved the fact noted in the introduction that Macdonald’s first name changes between books – that’s nothing – my favourite Boy’s Own romp “The Hole in the Ground” has a villain who changes from Derek to Felix half-way through.

Overall solid, but other reviewers seemed to have liked this quite a lot, so I was slightly underwhelmed.

Hamlet, Revenge by Michael Innes

Fulfils “When – during a performance of any kind”

The Lord Chancellor is shot dead whilst playing Polonius in an amateur, but highly prestigious, production of William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”. Inspector Appleby, in his second outing, is personally tasked by the Prime Minister to solve the case quickly and without scandal.

He is helped by his friend, Giles Gott, detective novelist and producer of the play, and the key question they need to answer is whether this murder is personal, possibly revenge, as hinted at by various theatrical communications received by members of the cast, or political, by someone wanting to get their hands on “Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries: proposed Pike and Perch Joint Scheme”.

Having read this before, I thought there was a final chase around a maze (can anyone suggest what I may have mixed this up from?), although there is an outside climax involving a hiding in plain sight, that is certainly cold, and definitely improbable.

My memories of this book before re-reading were that it was not as good as most of the other Applebys that I have read, and with thirty pages to go I was definitely feeling underwhelmed, and perhaps that is what I remembered previously, but persisting to the end gave an outcome that was fully satisfactory.

I look forward to reading the next three in the series which I haven’t read before: “Lament for a Maker”, “Stop Press”, and “The Secret Vanguard”, which are all sitting on my TBR shelf.

Have His Carcase

Fulfils “Who – a journalist/writer”

Harriet Vane, detective author, is in the middle of a walking tour when she discovers a corpse with its throat cut from ear to ear lying on a rock in the middle of a deserted beach. With the tide rising rapidly, she gathers as much evidence as she can, before alerting the police.

Based on her testimony the constabulary lean towards a verdict of suicide, but Lord Peter Wimsey is not convinced. By a helpful coincidence, the razor that Harriet has retrieved can be traced to his exclusive barber, and that is his way into the case.

A whole chapter is devoted to the solving of a cipher – it’s easy for the author to crack a code they’ve created – I wonder how many writers could solve this sort of puzzle unaided?

The memorable ending comes via a hastily constructed acrostic, and whilst that element had firmly stuck in my mind from a previous reading, I had entirely forgotten the complexity of everything that had lead to that point. As with the rest of the series, which I have been re-reading in order since the middle of last year, this is highly recommended.

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