Wednesday, 19 March 2014

The Mangle Street Murders by MRC Kasasian

published 2013  set in 1882








'Where did you get that sumptuous dress and what is that colour called? I am so out of touch, living in the wilds of Warwickshire.’

‘It came from a shop on Regent Street that was recommended to me by Mr Grice,’ I said. ‘The lady in the shop described it as dusty rose satin.’

‘What a clever name and how it complements your complexion. You do not call him Sidney?’

‘No,’ I said. ‘He is very correct.’ 


‘Then he is either a pompous ass or helplessly in love with you,’ she told me, ‘and, from the way you did not colour when you mentioned him, I should say the former. Oh, how disappointing. I had hoped he would have made you his mistress by now. How I could have entertained my tea-circle with that story. But do not worry, I shall anyway.’




observations: This exchange is not at all typical of this rather splendid book. Any clothes being discussed are usually terrible rags, or else something very blood-stained - although a buttercup yellow dress will be important later on, perhaps like this one used on the blog to illustrate Tudor mourning:





The narrator, March Middleton, is assistant & ward to a personal (not private) detective called Sidney Grice, and is helping him to investigate a gruesome murder. The description of life in the poorer parts of 1880s London seems authentically nasty and dirty, and the author doesn’t hold back from showing unpleasant sights. But the book is very very funny. Grice, the Gower St Detective, and his relationship with Middleton, are obviously a kind of spoof on Sherlock Holmes, but the whole thing is clever, original and refreshing. It is plainly the first of an intended series, and one that should be good fun. The murder plot is a good puzzle and on the whole well-worked out (I had got half of it but still had a few questions…). The combination of elaborate plots, excellent dialogue and funny jokes is a very promising one.

The main picture, by George Henry, is called Mary in the Pink Dress and is from the Athenaeum website. It is probably more low-cut and partyish than March Middleton would have worn for a day-time meeting, but the colour and face seemed right.

Another Holmes pastiche got short shrift in this entry, though a Sherlock Holmes fancy dress party was much admired here. The real Sherlock Holmes is here
.

10 comments:

  1. At first glance I thought never, on closer scrutiny I'm thinking maybe....nasty, dirty, funny, clever - all ticks in the box .........a lot might depend on what the author's initials turn out to be?

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    1. Good point. I had to look it up, but apparently it's Martin. Any good for the first name challenge? No good for the female writer %. It's probably just on the cusp for your interests - you might like it...

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    2. Amis - I've struggled through before. Splinter time again, it's not expensive but I ought to exercise a bit of restraint.

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  2. Moira - I love the premise for this one. And I do like a more or less realistic depiction of an era and lifestyle. Add in some wit and I'm listening! And by the way, I like the term dusky rose. I had no trouble understanding what that means -- it's an apt expression.

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    1. Yes, it's a very well-written book and I am certainly looking forward to more in the series. And I think we could all do with a nice dusky rose dress. (Well, the women amongst us.)

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  3. What a great title. I must read this!

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    1. I think you'd like it - books that are funny/witty I think are even more of a personal taste than other kinds of books, but this would be worth a punt for you from what I know of your reading....

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  4. Sounds interesting, even though I usually avoid funny mysteries. I did check out the beginning at Amazon, and it seems worth a try. I can look out for it at the book sale, it could show up there.

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    1. I'm wary of 3 categories here: funny, Holmes connection, and period (I love good period mysteries, but bad ones are very bad). But the book really overcame that, for me. It's a very recent book, but you might get lucky at the sale! The author tweeted me to say nice things about the post and the pictures I chose, which made me feel good...

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    2. I agree, the Holmes connection doesn't usually excite me either, but the portion I read at the beginning of the book encouraged me. It would be unusual for the book to show up at the sale so recently after publication (or it will be at a higher price) but putting it on the sale list keeps it on my radar throughout the year.

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