A collection of short stories, mostly light-hearted and fun.
1. The Listerdale Mystery – Mrs St Vincent finds a property with a cheap rent but what has happened to the owner?
2. Philomel Cottage -why is a woman glad in her dreams when her husband is killed by an old flame?
3. The Girl in the Train – George Rowland returns to the family seat and finds adventure.
4. Sing a Song of Sixpence – a retired barrister leaves his cul-de-sac to honour a decade old promise.
5. The Manhood of Edward Robinson – a young man grows a spine.
6. Accident – a retired policeman follows up an old case.
7. Jane in Search of a Job – in which a young lady follows up an unusual advertisement.
8. A Fruitful Sunday – a young couple get more than they bargained for.
9. Mr. Eastwood’s Adventure – an author goes out in search of a story.
10. The Golden Ball – George Dundas has a holiday with surprising consequences.
11. The Rajah’s Emerald – James Bond’s first exploit!
12. Swan Song – the world renowned Paula Nazorkoff agrees to a private performance at a country house.
An entertaining collection with no ghosts and ghouls in sight, so for me much better than the recently reviewed The Hound of Death.
Signs of the Times
Gerald Martin refers to “this Bluebeard’s chamber business” (2). A traditional French folktale tells how a young woman tries to escape from her husband, Bluebeard, who has already killed a number of previous wives.
The newly unemployed George Rowland notes that he won’t even be given the dole due to the quality of his clothes (3). Unemployment benefits were first introduced in the UK in under the National Insurance Act 1911. A “seeking work” test was added in 1921 and an element of means testing in 1922.
George meets a man whose hair cut is en brosse i.e. close shaven and with a moustache of the Hohenzollern persuasion (3). The Hohenzollerns were a European royal family, one branch of which became rulers of Prussia and then Germany. The type of moustache can be seen in this picture of Kaiser Wilhelm II.
Sir Edward is reading a volume of Lombroso when his evening is interrupted (4). Cesare Lombroso (1835 – 1909) was an Italian criminologist who rejected the classical theory that crime was a characteristic trait of human nature but was instead inherited and that a criminal could be identified by physical (congenital) defects.
Miss Crabtree’s handbag contained, amongst other things, three newspaper cuttings about Joanna Southcott’s box and an “Old Moore’s Almanack” (4). Joanna Southcott (1750 – 1814) claimed to be the Woman of the Apocalypse mentioned in the Book of Revelation. On her death she left behind a sealed box of prophecies with the instruction that it should only be opened at a time of national crisis and in the presence of all the bishops of the Church of England. Psychic researcher Harry Price claimed to have opened the box in 1927 but it is disputed as to whether this was the genuine article. “Old Moore’s Almanack” is an annual astrological book, first published in Britain by Francis Moore in 1697. It should not be confused with “Old Moore’s Almanac” first published in Ireland in Ireland by Theophilus Moore. Both titles are still published today.
Dorothy looks like Cleopatra, Semiramis, and Zenobia rolled into one (8). Semiramis was the legendary wife of Onnes and Ninus and succeeded her second husband to the throne of the Assyrian empire. Zenobia (c.240 – c.274) was queen of the Palmyrene empire in Syria.
The quote at the end of (8) refers to Proverbs 31:10.
Anthony reflects that his editor is likely to change the title of his story to something rotten life “Murder Most Foul” without so much as asking him. Ironically this became the title of Margaret Rutherford’s third outing as Miss Marple which was loosely based on “Mrs McGinty’s Dead”.
James Bond’s fragment of poetry “thanking heaven fasting, for a good man’s love” is from Shakespeare’s “As You Like It”.
Paula is happy that the abominable English piano has been replaced by an Erard (12) Sébastien Érard (1752 – 1831) was French instrument maker of German origin who pioneered the modern piano.
References to previous works
The Charge of the Light Brigade is alluded to in (3) and in Lord Edgware Dies.
Anthony Eastwood (4) quotes from “The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam” as did Mr Winburn in “The Lamp” in The Hound of Death.
Vintage Reading Challenge
Fulfils “Why – has been on your To Be Read Pile”.