Sherlock Holmes Favourites: I

Sherlock Holmes
By Sidney Paget, via wikimedia commons

Mysteries and detective fiction are one of my favourite genres to read (you may have noticed :P), and so, of course, the quintessential detective, Sherlock Holmes would have to be among my favourites too, and he is. I love the setting in early twentieth-century England, the puzzles he solves, and his powers of observation, which has everyone of even average intelligence feeling a lot like Watson. I realised, I haven’t really written a post about Holmes or stories featuring him on this blog, so decided to start with a few of my favourite short stories. Oddly enough, though so many of the Holmes stories are surrounded around murders, the ones I’m including in this list are mostly not!

The Red-Headed League: One of my very favourite short stories which I’ve read countless times and also watched the adaptation of (with Jeremy Brett) many times is the ‘Red-Headed League’. One Jabez Wilson comes to visit Holmes with an extraordinary problem. A pawn-broker not doing too well, he saw in the newspapers an unusual opportunity to make a good sum, being offered to only those with red hair. Since Mr Wilson has red hair, his assistant Vincent Spaulding encourages him to apply, and he finds himself selected and given a rather odd task–to copy out the Encyclopaedia Britannica for a few hours each morning during which he cannot leave the League’s offices. He takes the assignment up until one fine day, he arrives to find a notice that the League is dissolved. Holmes must find out the meaning of this trick that was played on Wilson, and of course, it turns out that there was far more to it than the ridiculous joke being played on Wilson. I love this one for how funny the whole scheme is (one can’t help but burst into laughter along with Holmes and Watson) but also for how Holmes works out the real reason behind it.

Holmes and Watson with Wilson
by Sidney Paget via wikimeda commons

The Adventure Blue Carbuncle: This one I love for both the puzzle and the lovely Christmassy atmosphere of the whole story (the latter probably came through more strongly in the adaptation). Watson visits Holmes to find him examining a hat which was dropped by a man who was being harassed by some ruffians. With the hat was also a goose–the goose Holmes gives to the Commissionaire who found it, but when he cooks it he finds it has laid a rather expensive egg–the Blue Carbuncle, a priceless jewel stolen from the Countess of Morcar, for which theft John Horner, a former convict and now a plumber has been arrested. But how did the jewel get into the goose? Holmes looks into the case, beginning with tracing down Mr Henry Baker, the man who lost the hat and goose, and whose character he deduces rather perfectly from the hat alone (this is one of the scenes I enjoy most in the story). With that begins a chase after the origins of the goose and how the stone came to be in it!

Fun fact: The carbuncle is supposed to have been found in the goose’s ‘crop’, something geese don’t have; this is considered Conan Doyle’s greatest blunder (via wikipedia).

Holmes and Watson with the Commissionaire
By Sidney Paget via wikimedia commons

The Naval Treaty: In this one Percy Phelps, an old schoolmate of Watson gets in touch about a serious problem. He has been ill with brain fever as a result of what happened, and his career is nearly finished. He was a good student at school and through his uncle’s influence has a good position at the Foreign Office, often being entrusted by his uncle, Lord Holdhurst with delicate and confidential tasks. One such was to copy a naval treaty, which is to be kept completely confidential. Percy stays after work to complete his task, and when he leaves his desk for a few moments to see about some coffee he’d ordered, the treaty disappears. There was no one in the office but the Commissionaire, and the charwoman, his wife. But when they are investigated, no leads are found. Now it is up to Holmes to see who could possibly have stolen the treaty, and why the obvious consequences, had the treaty been leaked, haven’t played out yet. Again, I loved this for the way Holmes works out the puzzle which is in some ways very simple, and yet quite twisted at the same time.

Holmes with a Rose in one of the scenes in the Naval Treaty
By Sidney Paget via wikimedia commons

The Man with the Twisted Lip: This case is about one Mr Neville St Clair who has gone missing when on business in London. Mrs St Clair who was also visiting London separately notices his face on the upper floor of an opium den, but when after some difficulty she manages to enter the place, the only person there is a beggar with a twisted face, Hugh Boone. The police thinks she may have made a mistake, but soon wooden bricks which her husband had promised to buy for their son and some of his clothes are found. The beggar is arrested and charged with the murder of Neville St Clair, but he refuses to say anything except denying his involvement, and also interestingly refuses to be washed. Holmes who is investigating finds a rather surprising answer. Once again, not a story involving murder but still a pretty interesting puzzle of which I loved the solution.

Hugh Boone
By Sidney Paget, via wikimedia commons

The Adventure of the Dancing Men: One Hilton Cubitt from Norfolk visits Holmes with mysterious pieces of paper which have figures of dancing men on it. He has recently married an American woman, Elsie Patrick, who refuses speak about her past which had some disagreeable memories and people though she personally has done nothing wrong. They have had a happy marriage so far but messages with these dancing men began to arrive making Elsie very fearful. When Holmes cracks the code that these dancing men represent, he realises Cubitt’s life is in danger but by the time he arrives at his home, Cubitt has been shot. He now uses the code that he has cracked to trace the killer. This is only one of the stories I picked in this set that has a murder, and is a little more sinister in tone than the others, as well as is more tragic. But what I enjoy about it is the codes and code-breaking element which is great fun.

The Dancing Men
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle via wikimedia commons

So there are some of my favourite Sherlock Holmes stories. There are more that I really like and I will write a separate post about them sometime.

Do you like Sherlock Holmes? Which are some of your favourite stories? Looking forward to reading about them!

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Shelf Control #40: Death in the Stocks by Georgette Heyer

Wednesday, the 17th of April, and time again for Shelf Control. Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and is about celebrating the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles. To participate, simply pick a book from your TBR and write a post about it, linking back to Lisa’s page. Do share your links with me as well as I’d love to check out your picks as well.

As April 2019 is my month for reading 1930s books, I’ve been trying to include 1930s publications or books set in that period in my other posts as well, including Shelf Control. So, this week to I have another 1930s pick, and another mystery (the first, two weeks ago was a British Library Crime Classic (here)), Death in the Stocks by Georgette Heyer. Death in the Stocks was first published in 1935.

This is the first in Heyer’s series of mysteries featuring Superintendent Hannasyde, described on Goodreads as “a perspicacious police superintendent for Scotland Yard”. He appears in four books (Death in the Stocks, Behold! Here’s Poison, They Found Him Dead, and A Blunt Instrument), and the series continues with his junior officer, Inspector Hemmingway, who appears in a further four books.

In this one, an English bobbie on his way back from patrol finds a body in evening dress, where else but in the stocks of the village green. The victim is Andrew Vereker, a not-very-well liked man, and in whose family there are several people with a motive to kill him. The family are corrupt, eccentric, and in no way cooperative. So of course, Hannasyde must investigate and identify a killer “so cunning that even his consummate powers of detection are tested to their limits…”.

Georgette Heyer, English writer of romances and detective fiction, was born in Wimbledon in 1902, and named after her father George Heyer. At seventeen, she began a serial story to entertain her brother who was ill, which her father enjoyed so much that he asked her to prepare it for publication and found an agent. This was The Black Moth. She went on to write numerous historical romances (particularly Regency romances), and other historical fiction, mysteries, short stories, and also a couple of essays.

I’ve read a few of her romances which were enjoyable, and also a couple of books featuring Inspector Hemmingway which I very much enjoyed. The mysteries, even when I could figure out the murderer, were enjoyable reads and what I especially liked about them is the humorous tone in which they are written, and the somewhat eccentric characters the Inspector encounters in each of his cases. (Incidentally, another of her mysteries, Penhallow, is an excellent character study, keeping one completely engrossed even when one knows whodunit.) So I am hoping that this first part of this series will have these elements too, and am looking forward to reading it.

Have you read this one or any of Heyer’s mysteries? Did you enjoy them or do you prefer her romances (if you’ve read those)? Looking forward to reading your thoughts!

All the information on the book and on Heyer is from Goodreads, and Wikipedia as always!

#MurderousMondays: Murder in Piccadilly by Charles Kingston

It’s Monday again, so time for #MurderousMondays. #MurderousMondays is a feature started by Mackey at Macsbooks, to share her latest murder read. A historical mystery, a contemporary, paranormal, or cosy–there are so many murder mysteries, and of you’re reading any, you can share them too!

As I wrote last week (here), since my reading theme this month is 1930s books, the mysteries I am reading this month are also those written or set in the 1930s. The book I read this week is a British Library Crime Classic, Murder in Piccadilly by Charles Kingston. Charles Kingston O’Mahoney, who wrote under the pen name Charles Kingston, began writing crime fiction in 1921 and went on to publish twenty-five mysteries until his death in 1944 (the last was posthumously published). Murder in Piccadilly was published in 1936.

Robert ‘Bobbie’ Cheldon is twenty-three, jobless and incapable of doing work, spoiled rotten by his mother Ruby Cheldon, and brought up in the expectation of inheriting his uncle, Massy Cheldon’s substantial estate (with an income of ten thousand a year). But Massy has a good few years, may be decades, before him yet. Bobbie however has fallen in love with a very pretty but not too talented dancer Nancy Curzon, who dances at a nightclub called the Frozen Fang. And the only way she will accept his suit is if he has a fortune—now! The only solution his mother and uncle have for the present is for him to get a job which they ensure he gets, but he must start at the bottom of the ladder. And Bobbie doesn’t want to work. However, he is also too much of a namby pamby to think murder, well may be not think it, but carry it out at any rate. But the murder does happen, and Bobbie, wittingly or unwittingly becomes involved, for there are unsavoury elements, friends of Nancy, among them ex-pugilist Nosey Ruslin, happy to nudge him in that direction, since it would be sure to give them a golden-egg-laying goose. And Bobbie is too young and foolish to see what’s coming. When the murder takes place, Chief Inspector Wake of Scotland Yard is given charge of the case, and while he is quick to work out who may be involved, he must find the requisite connections and proof, and the extent that each person he suspects is indeed involved, and this starts a sort of battle of wits with Nosey Ruslin. How will the Inspector put the clues together, and does he manage to do it as quickly as he thinks he can?

This certainly wasn’t a conventional murder mystery since we knew who the victim was and who plotted the murder, but it was still surprisingly interesting reading throughout. In the initial parts, as I said, while it is clear who the intended victim is, and who could be the possible killer, one can’t be very sure whether the murder will actually take place and how, though when it does, we have sufficient warning. And then, while we know who has been plotting the murder, we don’t know immediately who actually did the deed, so this remains a bit of a mystery. Once Chief Inspector Wake comes into the picture, the story for me got even more interesting as one begins to see how he acts on both intuition and evidence, preferring human clues who can reveal things to the more traditional understanding of clues, though even these turn out to help him in more than one way. Watching Nosey and the Inspector pit their wits against each other, even when we ‘know’ Wake will come out victorious turned out to be good fun. And the end, well, that has its own little surprises in store as the characters get their just desserts in a way one didn’t see coming (though there was a hint along the way). Even in terms of the investigation, things turn out quite differently than what I expected, and I was left wondering whether any of the characters really ‘won’. [Incidentally, the characters (a dancer in a nightclub, an ex pugilist, and a penniless young gentleman among them) almost sound as if they’d stepped out of a Wodehouse novel, but here they are more real and far less attractive.] So, this book turned out to be mystery that wasn’t a mystery, and yet had plenty to surprise me when I read it. Entertaining and fun!

Shelf Control #38: Thirteen Guests by J. Jefferson Farjeon

Wednesday, April 3rd, and time again for Shelf Control. Shelf Control is a weekly feature, hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and is all about celebrating the books waiting to be read on your TBR pile. To participate, all you do is pick any book and write a post about it, linking back to Lisa’s page. Do also leave your links in the comments as I’d love to check out your selections.

So the last couple of months I have been trying to pick books from my TBR for this feature which also fall into my reading theme for that month, and I am going to try and continue that attempt this month as well. This month, my theme is the 1930s, and I’ll be reading books written in that decade (reading plans here). So as part of that, my first pick for Shelf Control this month is a British Library Crime Classic, Thirteen Guests by J. Jefferson Farjeon.

What it’s all about: This is of course a mystery, one of my favourite genres. The story is set around a hunting party hosted one autumn by Lord Aveling at his country home Bragley Court. Guests include a mystery novelist, an artist, a journalist, and an actress. John Foss, injured at the local train station, is brought to the house to recuperate, and is the thirteenth guest. But suddenly, a painting is mutilated, a dog stabbed, and a man strangled, followed by other deaths. Detective Inspector Kendall investigates!

This book, first published in 1936, sounds like a perfect classic country house mystery which is something I really enjoy reading. A seemingly harmless country house party with guests that harbour secrets, one of them perhaps turning out to be a murderer–it can certainly make for some interesting reading! This book seems to have received mixed reviews, though a few of my GR friends have liked it very much. I have read one other book by this author before, The Z Murders, which I had mixed feelings about (review here), but the plot of this one, especially the country house setting, makes me want to give it a try all the same. [I also have another of his, Mystery in White on my TBR pile for this month!]

The Author: Joseph Jefferson Farjeon (1883-1955) was an English writer, screenwriter, and playwright. He has written numerous works of detective and other fiction under his own name and pseudonyms, besides plays and short story collections (A full list is on wikipedia here, and while I was too lazy to count, there are well over eighty books on the list).

Have you read this book or any other book by J. Jefferson Farjeon? Which one/s? How did you find it/them? Looking forward to your thoughts!

Review: The Catherine Howard Conspiracy by Alexandra Walsh

My thanks to NetGalley and Sapere books for a review copy of this book.

The Catherine Howard Conspiracy is the first in a trilogy, the Marquess House trilogy, and is a mystery/thriller that unfolds in two parallel timelines. After a brief prologue setting out some events in 1542 Pembrokeshire, we come to the present day where historian–archaeologist, Dr Perdita Rivers working at an undersea site where a sunken ship, possibly from the Armada, has been found is told that her estranged grandmother, an eminent historian Mary Fitzroy has died, and that her and her twin sister, Piper are left heirs to her estate. She soon discovers that her estate is not only vast including the imposing Marquess House, but also includes treasures in the form of the books and documents that Marquess House is home to including its own legacy and the results of her grandmother’s research. As she begins to look into this, she begins to uncover the secrets that Marquess House hides (which connect to Catherine Howard) as well as much that has been hidden in her and Piper’s life. In this, she is helped by her grandmother’s lawyer and friend, Alistair Mackensie and his family, particularly, his youngest son, Kit. Alongside, back in the sixteenth century, we follow Catherine Howard, Henry VIII’s fifth queen, from the time she enters the palace as maid-in-waiting to Anne of Cleeves, catches Henry’s eye, and becomes his queen. But as queen she is caught between the ageing and increasing violent Henry, who acts entirely on his whim, and her own family the Howards, particularly the Duke of Norfolk who wants his own ambitions for the Howard family realised through her. Having seen the fate that befell her cousin Anne Boleyn, Catherine must live in fear nearly every step of the way, and can rely only on a few to protect her.

Catherine Howard by Hans Holbein
Source:
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:HowardCatherine02.jpeg

Some aspects of the book when it begins, and the comparisons with Dan Brown, kind of gave me a clue as to the direction in which the plot was headed, so when I started, my enthusiasm was kind of dampened, but as I read on and the two storylines unfolded with the present-day characters uncovering various secrets, I began to get absorbed in the plot and want to keep reading on to see what they would find next, and how they would get to the answer to the mystery. I also enjoyed the historical part of the story as it played out (though there were certain scenes, describing Henry’s brutality and depravations which were a bit too gruesome for my liking—may be a little less detail would have worked better for me here). The author has taken historical events and characters and given them her own interpretation. So, many of the characters, Catherine Howard, Lady Rochford, and Norfolk, in particular, have different personalities than one is (or at least I was) used to from other fiction (even, non-fiction) set in the era. How much of this interpretation is true (the conspiracy is fiction of course, as the author says), I can’t tell but it was certainly an interesting spin on events, and told in a fast paced, and exciting manner. The main character, Dr Perdita Rivers, I didn’t really take to so much, in the sense that I felt her a little too naïve in many situations; also I felt even when the answer to some things seemed to stare her in the face, she took a page or two longer to get to it. While this book solves part of the mystery, there is a further thread to explore which is probably where the next one will pick up, and I am excited to see how that turns out. An exciting read which I would have enjoyed far more if the secrets unveiled would have really taken me by surprise.

The book released on 28 March 2019!

Review: #RenéeStone 1: Murder in Abyssinia #NetGalley #GraphicNovel #HistoricalFiction

My thanks to NetGalley and Europe Comics for a review copy of this book.

This is a graphic novel and first in series featuring Renée Stone, author of detective fiction, who arrives in Ethiopia (then, Abyssinia) along with a number of other “hand-picked Europeans” in October 1930 to witness the coronation of the last Emperor Haile Selassie I. As she is getting off the train after a twenty-hour journey, she meets archaeologist-epigraphist John Malowan, who is immediately smitten by her. She herself is interested in his friend/travelling companion, Theziger, a dashing explorer. Once there, she also bumps into a critic and author Graham Gray (obviously, a play on Graham Greene, even down to his book “No Reply from Istanbul”), who seems to enjoy bringing up the more painful aspects of her life. Meanwhile, John takes her to meet his family (who think she is his wife), and there she is given a Mesopotamian cylinder, belonging to John’s grandfather, Hormuzd Rassam, also an archaeologist. This is just the beginning of an adventure as it is soon clear that there are some sinister elements after John, to do with his family and especially his father, who seems to have been a smuggler/dealer in artefacts. This takes them to an elephant sanctuary and to Lalibela, where at 8,200 feet above sea level, a replica of Jerusalem had been built, and puts them in a situation where they do not know whom to trust. With John being quite a scatterbrain, it is up to Renée to take charge and get them to safety.

I chose to read this one since the description made it sound very much like the characters were based (loosely) on Agatha Christie and Max Mallowan, a successful detective novelist and an archaeologist coming together to solve a mystery. While I was expecting this to be somewhat of a whodunit, it didn’t turn out to be one, but was more on the lines of a thriller of sorts in an archaeological setting, with elements of mystery and murder. I liked that the book incorporates a real historical event, the coronation of Haile Selassie and historical characters—Hormuzd Rassam was real, and I also enjoyed learning about Lalibela, also a real location. The concept of the story was interesting, and I liked (as I usually do) the archaeology setting, and the fact that this turns into a quest for a lost treasure (which will continue in the next volume). Also, I liked how the book based its characters on Christie and her Husband and brings in Graham Greene (though I don’t think there’s more than a basic similarity).  While I found the story enjoyable, it (and the characters) somehow didn’t grab me as much as I had thought from the description that they would. Still, this was a quick read with a subject and setting that I enjoy, and the fact that the next leg of the adventure will take us to Mesopotamia, certainly makes me want to pick up the next volume.

Shelf Control #25 Speaking From Among the Bones

Wednesday the 12th of December, and my twenty-fifth time writing a shelf control post. Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at 
Bookshelf Fantasies, and is all about celebrating the books waiting on your TBR pile. (If you’re anything like me, there’s PLENTY to choose from there.) All you do to participate is pick one book from your TBR pile, and write a post about it. Link back to Lisa’s blog as well.

Mysteries, and especially historical mysteries are a favourite with me, and time and again I find myself not only buying and/or reading these books but also picking and writing about them for Shelf Control. This week, its the same again, and my pick is Speaking from Among the Bones by Alan Bradley.

What It’s All AboutSpeaking from Among the Bones is the fifth book in Bradley’s Flavia de Luce series. Flavia, when the series starts, is an eleven-year-old girl obsessed with chemistry, and lives in her crumbling family home with her father and sisters, her mother having gone missing. She falls into and solves several murder mysteries, often ahead of the local police as all good detectives do. Oh and she has her own chemistry lab! The series has nine books so far.

In this one, when the tomb of St Tancred is opened in their village of Bishop’s Lacey, the body of the church’s organist, his face covered by a gas mask is recovered. Flavia’s interest is piqued and she sets out to investigate. Who killed the organist in this way, and why hide his body in a crypt? Flavia’s adventures lead her to a story of ancient relics and lost manuscripts.

Where and When I Got It: As is usual for me lately, this one was ordered online, late last year. The edition I’ve got is a 2014 paperback published by Orion books. The cover is the same as the picture above.

Why I Want to Read this: Of course because this is a historical mystery, one of my favourite genres, but also because I love this particular series. I read the first book early last year and absolutely loved it. The mystery was fun enough. The setting, by the way, is 1950s England (in case you didn’t know). But mostly, it is because Flavia herself, our “heroine” is such a fun character. I enjoy her spunk, her “voice” (the stories are told in first person), all the chemistry, and her family (a little bit of an I Capture the Castle kind of scenario there). Somehow, I haven’t got my hands on book 2 yet but I have read 1,3, and 4, and and looking forward to reading this one. Alongside the mystery, we also follow Flavia’s own story–her father is in debt, her mother is missing, and she has an interesting relationship with her sisters. So I’m looking forward to seeing how things progress on that front as well.

Time for the usual questions now! Have you read this one or any of the other books in the Flavia series? Are you a fan like me or did you not take to them as much (I have heard both opinions)? If you do like the books, which are your favourites in the series so far? Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

#FlaviaDeLuce #mystery #AlanBradley #historicalfiction

Review: All these Beautiful Strangers by Elizabeth Klehfoth

My thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Random House Children’s UK for a review copy of this book.

Thisyoung adult mystery is the story of Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Calloway, the daughterof a real estate mogul who attends a post prep school, Knollwood Preparatory.She has just received an invitation to be inducted into the very secret club,the ‘A’s’ at the school for which she (and other initiates) will be given threedifficult challenges which will get them to push many boundaries. But Charlie’slife is plagued by another mystery—her mother disappeared ten years ago,literally all of a sudden, and no trace has been found of her. Grace Callowaywas from an ordinary, working class background so the Calloways only think theworst of her—her being a gold-digger and such. On the other hand, her mother’sfamily and friends believe Charlie’s father had something to do with hermother’s disappearance. When Grace’s brother, Charlie’s uncle Hank contacts herwith some information about Grace, she decides to start looking into thematter. As the story proceeds, we start to see different events in differenttimelines from the perspective of Grace, and also of Alistair, Charlie’sfather, besides Charlie herself. Going back and forth in time, the differentpieces of the puzzle start to come together.

While this was a mystery, one of my favourite genres, it was very different from the mystery stories I usually read, with the prep school setting, and Gossip Girl vibes (as the description itself said). But still I found it to be a pretty interesting read. I liked how the story switched between different timelines and viewpoints, which meant that at times, the reader had learnt more about the characters’ (Charlie’s parents and friends and relatives) complicated (very) backstories than Charlie had at that point, and one was waiting to see how she finds out and how it helps her put the puzzle together. Being in a school setting, there are the usual school storylines moving on alongside—escaping curfew, classes,homecoming dance, and even a touch of romance. Though most of the students are the typical prep-school rich kids (a la Gossip Girl), one does like Charlie,even if not many of the other characters. As far as the mystery itself was concerned, it turned out that there was more than one puzzle that needed solving, but about less than halfway into the book, one could more or less workout what the broad answers to the mystery would be and how the two main mysteries were connected. But despite that, I found the book did have me hooked and reading on, both because I wanted to see whether I was right, and how things would turn out for the characters. Also the whodunit I only figured out a little later. Although about 500 pages long (a little over in fact) the book didn’t feel like it was dragging at any point, and kept me interested all through. My rating: 4 stars for this one—for a mystery to get full points from me, it really has to surprise me or have a twist I didn’t see coming, which this one didn’t really. But still, it was a very enjoyable read.

Guy Fawkes Day Read: Murder in the Mews by Agatha Christie

Guy_Fawkes_by_Cruikshank.jpg

Guy Fawkes

Image Source: George Cruikshank [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Its the 5th of November, and  while I am in the middle of a couple of other books, I decided to stop and pick up a read that has a Guy Fawkes theme, since I have been planning to for years, but never seem to get down to it on time. I don’t really know very much fiction (yet) that is set around the gunpowder plot or Guy Fawkes in some way. There is of course the recently released Fawkes by Nadine Brandes (on goodreads here), which is definitely set around the gunpowder plot (I don’t have a copy of that one), and The House of Arden by Edith Nesbit (on goodreads here) where the children in the story find themselves travelling in time to and mixed up in Guy Fawkes’ plot, as a result of their knowledge of history. But I also did want a short read since I am already reading other books. So I picked a quick read, a short (ish) story by Agatha Christie, titled “Murder in the Mews”, part of her book also called Murder in the Mews, which features four Poirot stories.

 

Murder in the Mews.jpg

 

‘Murder in the Mews’ the first story, opens on Guy Fawkes night, where Chief Inspector Japp and Hercule Poirot have just dined together and are walking back to Poirot’s flat. There is a band of urchins begging for money, and also reciting the Guy Fawkes poem, ‘Remember, Remember, the Fifth of November…’ There are of course, also fireworks, the sounds of squibs and ‘occasional showers of golden rain’.

 

800px-Mersey_Park_fireworks_display_-_DSC04455.JPG

Mercy Park Fireworks Display

Image source: By Rept0n1x [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

Japp remarks to Poirot that this would be a perfect night for a murder for the sound of a shot would go unheard in all that noise, and Poirot agrees, the discussion then turning to how it would be if Poirot were to commit a murder. The next morning Japp telephones Poirot to tell him that a suspicious death has in fact taken place in Bardsley Gardens Mews, the very area they were walking through the previous night, and it seems as though someone has indeed taken advantage of the celebrations.

The victim is a young widow, Mrs Allen who shares a flat with her friend Jane Plenderleith, who was away on the night in question. On first glance, it seems a case of suicide, for the doors and windows are locked and the gun is in Mrs Allen’s hand. But Barbara Allen was engaged to an up-and-coming Member of Parliament, was well-liked by all, and was leading an otherwise innocuous existence. There seems no reason why she should commit suicide. When Poirot and Japp begin to look closer at the circumstances around the incident, they find more than what first meets the eye. Barbara Allen may well have been murdered, and the crime simply made to look like suicide.

The first chapter is really the only section of this story that focuses on Guy Fawkes night, while the rest is Japp and Poirot investigating the case, interviewing various people who may have seen something, people connected with the victim, and also her flatmate who seems to know more than she lets on. Sherlock Holmes and the ‘curious incident of the dog in the nighttime’ are also referenced and point to an important clue.

This was an enjoyable mystery. Since it was a reread, I knew the solution of course, but the first time around, I really didn’t guess what had happened, and who the killer could have been (more so really, the why). At a little under 100 pages in the edition I read it in, this was also a very quick read, and seemed a nice fit even though the 5th of November was only a small part of the story.

Have you read this one before? What did you think of it? And what about other books (fiction or non-fiction) which have Guy Fawkes or the 5th of November as their theme? Any recommendations? Looking forward to hearing about them