The Herring In The Library by L C Tyler
|The Herring In The Library by L C Tyler|
|Reviewer: Linda Lawlor|
|Summary: A glorious mixture of Golden Age detective fiction and hilarious one-liners. Don't read it in public unless you are happy to let people see you giggle helplessly.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 288||Date: August 2010|
|External links: Author's website|
Tall, elegant Ethelred is a gentleman, and a third-rate author. Elsie, his literary agent, is short and dumpy, and not afraid to speak her mind. It is Elsie, in fact, who constantly assures her client he only occasionally aspires to the giddy heights of being second-rate. This could be the business partnership from hell, but not only do these two seem to get along, they even manage to solve crimes together. In this, the third outing for L C Tyler's eccentric sleuths, we are provided with a locked room mystery, a cast of possible villains of the most stereotypical type, and a fresh, funny tale which will make you laugh so much you'll get a stitch.
Ethelred has been invited, along with the reluctant Elsie, to a posh dinner party at Muntham Court (which an author's note gleefully informs us is now a crematorium) by Sir Robert, an old friend from university, formerly known as Shagger. Before they even get as far as dessert their genial host has made an enigmatic speech and a dramatic exit, only to be found strangled shortly thereafter on the wrong side of a locked door. The grieving widow insists that Ethelred should investigate the death, clumsily providing all manner of obvious and inaccurate clues and unreliable witnesses that have the effect of obscuring the truth rather than helping the author and his chocoholic agent to solve the mystery.
Don't be fooled by the cover of this book. The story is, it is true, pure Golden Age, and in many ways typifies the 'cosy' crime genre. But the story is bang up to date: by the time we get to the end of chapter one, we've had references to Amazon ratings, Dan Brown and Vivienne Westwood. And we've had more one-liners than most writers manage in a whole book:
Elsie assumed a look of wide-eyed innocence, to which she was not even remotely entitled.
One of Elsie's roles as my literary agent was, as I had learned long ago, to remind me of my many inadequacies. We had established two or three new ones that afternoon.
They squabble and spar and, on occasion, lie to each other with all the gusto of old and trusted friends, but somehow they manage together to uncover the secrets, find the clues and solve the mysteries, in a way curiously reminiscent of a cross between Agatha Raisin and Bertie Wooster. Add a dash of Agatha Christie, and you have a fair idea of the flavour of this splendid book. The story is narrated by both characters in turn, and much of the humour comes from the widely differing versions they give of each event. Indeed, one of the major strengths of this book lies in the wonderfully warm and funny conversations between the two friends.
Ethelred is beginning a new novel as this book starts, and the extracts we are given from the manuscript of Master Thomas, fourteenth-century customs officer and underling to one Geoffrey Chaucer, add not only to the humour of this book but also show the subconscious thoughts of his creator. A man has been murdered, his wife clearly knows more than she is letting on, and there is a forthright Prioress who seems worryingly familiar. Can Ethelred apply this to his present task?
Best of all, to this reader's mind, is the literary advice Elsie gives Ethelred. Keep it simple, she says: no metafiction, no foreshadowing of events via dubious analogies. And finally, as she forcefully insists, no poxy flashbacks. How fortunate for us that L C Tyler did not take his own advice!
My thanks to the publishers for sending it to Bookbag.
This is the third in the Elsie and Ethelred mystery series, and L C Tyler has written another, equally funny book called A Very Persistent Illusion. Another humorous book about an author watching his characters develop is Wild Oats by Michael Edwards.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Herring In The Library by L C Tyler at Amazon.com.
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