Sunday, 16 March 2014

Dress Down Sunday: The Norwich Victims by Francis Beeding

published 1931



LOOKING AT WHAT GOES ON UNDER THE CLOTHES






[Richard, John and Hermione have a triangular relationship, and are also plotting together…]

‘Sweetheart,’ murmured Richard and kissed her again.

He held her back at arm’s length and looked at her.

‘Hermione,’ he said… ‘You are more lovely every time I look at you.’

‘Look as much as you like, if that’s the effect it has. But you create for yourself illusions, as the French say. Or perhaps it is my pyjamas?’

‘I adore you in black,’ said Richard, and drew her again towards him…

‘I must go and make myself respectable, darling’ she said. ‘John will be back any minute now.’…

[John arrives] Hermione, in her black pyjamas, was already sitting in the arm-chair and lighting a cigarette…

‘Back already, John. Tell us what you have been doing. Richard and I have been mooning here for hours, wondering how you were getting on. I’ve been too worried even to dress myself properly.’





observations: When two key crime fiction bloggers – Martin Edwards and Rich Westwood - both recommended this book it seemed likely to be a winner, and it absolutely is.

Francis Beeding is a Golden Age detective story writer, and that’s a pseudonym hiding a pair of authors – you can find out more at the links above. The book has been recently reprinted by the splendid Arcturus Press, but had been little-known or remembered till then.

It’s the kind of story where we follow the villains (the three people above) as well as their victims, the policeman, and a few other people. John, Hermione and Richard are conspiring to cheat an old lady of her money, and this is going to end in several murders and twists and turns. It’s intriguing, and just when you think you know what’s going on it can pull surprises…. Can’t say more than that. But, a really excellent final 20 pages.

It’s also very well-written and a lot livelier than most lost Golden Age books, and the glimpses into people’s sex lives are quite unusual too – Hermione is ‘the lady what ought to be Mrs Throgmorton’ ie living in sin, as well as keeping up another relationship. She is judged for several things, but not apparently for her freeness with her favours. I would say this was pretty rare in a cozy-style detective story.

A tiny glance at a lost world: listening to the radio news they hear ‘I am sorry that we are a little late with the news tonight. The time is now 9.37…We now begin the second news bulletin, copyright reserved.’ Whether this is an accurate transcription at the time or not, it’s hard to imagine on BBC Radio 4 these days.

One wonderful feature of this book is that there are PHOTOGRAPHS of the main characters. Clothes in Books applauds this (even though we’d be out of business if everyone did it) and – again, going to put this carefully – every reader will find him or herself turning back to look at them again on finishing the book. These are two of the photos - presumably posed by actors: 

















So a big thank you to Rich and Martin: I will most certainly be pursuing more books by Francis Beeding.

The top picture is of Hollywood film star Claudette Colbert wearing black lounging pyjamas – suitable for informal entertaining, apparently. Which is another description of what Hermione has been doing above.

12 comments:

  1. I really like some of the Beeding books I reading the past so now really have to get this one - thanks chum (and love that photo of Colbert)

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    1. I've read another one by him, and liked that too. Will look out for your review. Claudette Colbert was just wonderful, I love her.

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  2. Moira - Oh, I'm so glad you liked this one. I couldn't agree more about trusting both Martin and Rich when it comes to crime novels. I love the premise of this one - I really do. And it is interesting in a cosy not have judgements made on Hermione's lifestyle. In fact, I can think of a lot of Golden Age crime novels where (especially) a female character gets 'a certain reputation' for being chased rather than chaste. You've given me some real incentive to check out Beeding's work myself, so thanks. :-)

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    1. I'm sure you'll enjoy it Margot, it's a real classic. Rich and Martin came up trumps with this one.

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  3. Definitely a book I will have to read when it becomes available here. I do remember the mention of the photos included in the books, which make them even more interesting.

    Love the picture of Claudette Colbert.

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    1. Isn't Claudette Colbert wonderful? She was mesmerizing on film, I love her. And yes, look out for the book, I'm sure you'll like it.

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  4. Glad you liked it (always a relief when recommending...)

    I've just borrowed Death Comes to Eastrepps (apparently even better) - I'll keep you posted.

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    1. I know just what you mean about recommending. I wouldn't have blamed you if I hadn't liked it, but doesn't arise as loved it so much. Was enjoying it very much as a period piece, and for the sociological details mentioned above, but then the ending blew me away...

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  5. On the fence here, not sure if its one of those books I'd buy and never read.

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    1. That's quite a large category. This one really is good - not quite noir, but not all that cosy either.

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  6. I enjoyed The Norwich Victims, too (loved the photos!), and Death Comes to Eastrepps even more. I've read that and posted a blog about it recently.

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    1. I'm reading Eastrepps too, and will go and look up your entry, thanks. I'm wondering which other of his books to try.

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