Book, screen, stage, festival & event reviews.
On this Bank Holiday weekend, do you fancy something with a mystery to solve? Something witty and clever? Something that will have you laughing out loud? Yes? Well, do rush off to your local bookshop or library to grab a copy of this novel right now. Or order it online…
In The Herring in the Library, Ethelred Tressider (the multi-genre and multi-pseudonymous writer) and Elsie Thirkettle (his forthright, chocolate devotee literary agent) are back doing what they do best: writing, agenting and sparring from their differing points of view while investigating whatever mystery throws itself in their wake. As the title might suggest, this story makes use of the ‘locked room’ plot theme with L C Tyler again bringing the Golden Age of crime fiction into the twenty first century.
The Herring in the Library opens with Elsie enjoying a game of Cluedo with Ethelred, while he tries to invoke the rules of play (unsuccessfully). They are passing the time before heading out to dinner at Muntham Court, the guests of Sir Robert and Lady Muntham. Elsie looks forward to sneering at their hosts and indeed, has more opportunity than she could anticipate. Ethelred and Robert were ‘buddies’ in their university days, when Robert was a drinking, rugby playing hedonist known as ‘Shagger’. Sir Shagger went on to some success in the banking sector before bagging the title and then leaving his bank under a cloud. He bought Muntham Court with the proceeds of his banking success as his wife fancied being known as ‘Lady Muntham of Muntham Court’.
During the dinner, Sir Shagger makes a strange announcement before disappearing for an extended absence, only to be discovered locked in his library/study apparently strangled. With no obvious route of escape for a murderer, the police quickly conclude suicide. However, Lady Muntham is not happy with the result and calls on Ethelred, as a crime writer, to perform an investigation. Elsie, the original ‘Herring Seller’s Apprentice’ of the first in the series, throws her full weight into the investigation, welcome or not. Secrets abound and in the full roll call of guests, all have a motive for bumping off the host.
Swapping point of view between our two protagonists, there is plenty of opportunity to have a laugh at their differing perspectives.
Ethelred on Elsie’s fashion sense:
‘Elsie pointed to what she was wearing. This summer she had gone a bit peasant for no obvious reason. I’d seen one or two actresses photographed in something similar for the Sunday colour supplements, but they had known roughly where to stop. Elsie’s costume was sort of Gypsy Rose Lee meets Vivienne Westwood – though it didn’t look as if they had been pleased to see each other. I’d hoped she had something else in the small bag she had deposited in the hallway of my flat. I was still hoping.’
Elsie on fellow guest, Felicity Hooper’s fashion sense:
‘… Not everyone has my dress sense, of course, but this dame had either gone to her mother’s wardrobe by mistake or thought that this was a fancy dress party. I sniffed the air but unexpectedly could not detect the odour of mothballs. I could have given her a few helpful tips on the fashion front…’
Immense fun and the best in the series so far.
With thanks to Pan Macmillan for the copy reviewed.