Thursday, September 8, 2011

CB # 24-27 Mysteries!

Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy L. Sayers
Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie
Something Fresh by P.G. Wodehouse
The Spellmans Strike Again by Lisa Lutz

                I once read somewhere that librarians love to read mysteries. I think it has something to do with the fact that librarians love solving puzzles, since what is a reference question if it’s not a small mystery? Some of these are older, one is newer, and one is barely a mystery but I’m throwing it in just because.

Murder Must Advertise
                I have a deep and abiding love for Sayers.  I read her translations of Dante’s Divine Comedy for class, and our professor informed us that she also wrote mysteries about the lovely Lord Peter Whimsy. Whimsy seems to be a dilettante but he’s really one of the greatest detectives of all time. One of the appeals of the Whimsy novels is that  Sayers  goes really in depth when writing her mysteries. Not only is it exciting and well written, but a huge amount of research must have been done, because you always learn something (not surprising coming from a translator of Dante). This one is set at an advertising house and was published in the 1930’s. There’s been an “accident”, and Whimsy is on the case, disguising himself by getting work at the agency. I learned a ton of about how ads were created and distributed, which makes sense since Sayers used to work in advertising. I also learned that cocaine has always been a hell of a drug, although I did find 1930”s drug slang confusing.

                Apparently this wasn’t Sayers favourite work, but I really enjoyed it. The mystery was interesting, Whimsy was divine and all the supporting characters were a delight. I also actually figured out part of the mystery myself, which made me feel super accomplished (sad but true).

Evil Under the Sun
                I reach for Agatha Christie novels when I want a quick read. I always fly right through them in an hour or so. It’s part of the appeal though, especially after you finish a slog of a book. Hercule Poirot is the detective in this one, and even though he’s not my favourite (Miss Marple is) he is still pretty wonderful. Vanity is always appealing in a character, but never in a real person. Also, he has a great mustache, which is always admirable.

                The mystery in this book revolves around a dead woman found on a private beach. Only people staying at the hotel could have access to it, so they’re all suspects. I find it hard to solve Christie’s novels, so I usually just read them for the thrill. She’s always using red herrings and I find it hard to ignore them. However, it was harder to ignore the 1940’s version of femininity that I was presented with. Christie regularly writes that way, but I found it really rubbed me the wrong way this time. Even so, it’s a good quick read.

Something Fresh
                To be honest, this is barely a mystery, but it was so funny that I have to recommend it. Especially since the last time I read a Wodehouse novel it was just offensive, and I need to believe that some good things did come out of Britain.

                Lord Elmworth is incredibly absentminded, and accidentally stole a priceless scarab from his hapless son’s future father-in-law. The millionaire father-in-law, J. Preston Peters, is incensed and decides that he’s going to  offer a reward if someone steals it back. Ashe is barely escaping poverty by writing trashy detective stories, and takes Peters up on the offer. Unfortunately for Ashe, his neighbor Joan Valentine has also heard about the reward from  Peters’ daughter Aline, and really needs to get her hands on some money. Then there’s the fact that Freddie, Elmworth’s son, has gambled too much and probably should be a confirmed bachelor since I don’t think he could make anyone happy. I’ve only mentioned the major characters, there are more and they are all ridiculous and therefore charming. This is a major comedy of errors with people running around Blandings Castle all night, falling in love, making huge mistakes, stealing scarabs and generally making a nuisance of themselves.

                Once again this is a quick read, but it’s funny and there is a bit of a mystery and a lot of  (hilarious) romance.

The Spellmans Strike Again
                One of these things is not like the others. The Spellman mysteries are set in present day USA, and not in first half of the 20th century Britian. However, these books are funny and charming and they are mysteries, which is the connection I made to the others. This one is the fourth in the series.

                Izzy Spellman works as a private detective, which might sound interesting until you realize that it’s really a lot of watching people. If you’re wondering how she got into that work, it’s because it’s a family business. Everyone in the family, except for her brother David, works at the Spellman firm. It’s probably not best for family relations because they’ve become very used to surveillance and they spy on each other all the time. Izzy’s mother blackmails her with information from prom night so that Izzy will go on dates with lawyers. However, Izzy actually has a boyfriend, a bartender who doesn’t appreciate the fact that she absolutely has to go on dates with these men.

                Her younger sister Rae, wants nothing more than to be a detective, but her parents know that she’s practically a genius, and they want her to go to a renowned university. Oh, and there’s a mystery as well. A millionaire is losing his valet for a short period of time, and wants Izzy to figure out if the rest of his servants are stealing from him.

                The mystery is rarely the point in the Spellman books. It’s more about the kooky family arrangements, and the secrets that they’re keeping from each other. Once again, it’s a quick, fun read that’s really delightful.  I would suggest that you start with The Spellman Files, so that you get maximum enjoyment from the series.

1 comment:

  1. P.G. Wodehouse is so fantastic. Have you read "The Code of the Woosters"? I think that's what it's called. If so, have you ready any other Widehouse as funny? (I haven't but I wsure would like to!)