Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Crime in schools - but only in fiction

the book:

The Daughters of Gentlemen by Linda Stratmann


published 2012 chapter 2

 
 
Frances inspected the room and made polite compliments, until the movement of feet next door told her that the French lesson with Mlle Girard had ended. They passed into the hallway, where the teacher, a dainty little woman of about twenty-five, was ushering the girls from the room. The pupils, who appeared to range in age from twelve to seventeen, were clad in plain grey dresses and spotless white pinafores, each girl’s hair shining as if brushed only moments ago, and tied with a grey bow. Mrs Venn spoke briefly to Mlle Girard, who cast her dark eyes and an arched eyebrow at Frances. She then spoke to one of the girls before departing with her youthful train following, leaving Charlotte Fiske, who was already starting to look afraid, in the custody of Mrs Venn.





observations: The Daughters of Gentlemen is the second in a series, followup to last year’s Poisonous Seed. Clothes in Books can never resist a detective story set in an educational establishment, a female one for preference – Christie’s Cat among the Pigeons and Tey’s Miss Pym Disposes are great favourites - and so this was an automatic read. Woman detective Frances Doughty goes to teach in a girls’s school in order to find out who has been distributing distressing literature and, of course, uncovers all kinds of other goings-on. Like its predecessor, this book is very convincing in its use of historical detail without overdoing it. Again, like the other book, it has an immensely complex plot, and it is hard to keep track of all the characters and what they are up to – not something we say lightly. Veteran crime story readers are used to multiple plot lines and impostures, and can keep whole family trees in our heads while unpicking alibis and spotting clues, but this one approached over-complication. The key to the plot is a pamphlet which is reproduced part way through, and this reader wondered if something had gone wrong with this, kept going back to look at it: characters found all sorts of things in it that simply didn’t seem to be there. (specifically, in case anyone can help, ‘The allusion to Miss Baverstock was unmistakable.’ Not to me.)

But it was still an enjoyable book, and we can hope Frances will have a long career as a detective.

Links up with: The
Little Princess went to a similar school. Dandy Gilver investigated a crime in a girls' school, while Gladys Mitchell’s Mrs Bradley investigated in a training college. Stratmann's previous book enabled us to use a fantastic picture of a male impersonator.

The children above are at school in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan: probably at the beginning of the 20th century, when it was part of the Russian Empire. The photo can be found on
Wikimedia Commons.

1 comment:

  1. Moira - Complex set of characters or no, this does indeed sound really interesting. And like you, I am always attracted to murders in an academic setting. Thanks for this recommendation. And I just love that 'photo - those uniforms!

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