blank'/> Clothes In Books: Skeleton in Search of a Cupboard by Elizabeth Ferrars

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Skeleton in Search of a Cupboard by Elizabeth Ferrars

published 1982




His curly hair stood straight up from his forehead in more of a thatch than I approved of, but it was very difficult to persuade him to have it cut. Day after day, when I badgered him enough about it, he would promise to go into Alcaster to have the job done, but sometimes weeks would pass before he finally gave in and went, to come back with it cropped almost to his skull. He was utterly indifferent to his appearance, which was a pity, because he was really a very good-looking man. He was tall, very slender, and although he looked so bony, he moved with charmingly casual ease. He was dressed more or less as I was in old corduroy slacks and a sweater, but his had not been to the cleaner’s for a far longer time than mine. To deprive him of his favourite clothes, even briefly, took art and determination. 







observations: Martin Edwards, crime writer and reader (of the splendid Do You Write Under Your Own Name? blog) recommended this one to me when I covered a previous Ferrars book, and, as he says, it has an interesting plot idea. They’re not demanding books (although this one starts out with a very elaborate family – a widow with five stepchildren from her husband’s two previous marriages) and there’s a lot of action and quite a complex denoument.

What I do enjoy is finding the pictures to match Ms Ferrars’ work: the woman wearing a fur coat to go to badminton here (1940s), the girl in a green dress in the Mediterranean villa here (1950s). Now we are in the 1980s (I keep saying, she did write a lot), but the look of a romantic hero hasn’t changed much – in Alibi for a Witch we had discussion of male haircuts and shabby clothes.

The idea that this impoverished couple send their casual clothes to the cleaner’s seems quite unlikely – they have a dishwasher, so surely they also have a washing machine. Occasionally Ferrars' view of modern life seems to waver slightly, and in truth there isn’t much to pin it to the 1980s. But I wasn’t going to miss the chance to find a fine couple and a chap all in sweaters from the era – these are, of course, knitting pattern pictures.

The book is an entertaining read, I guessed part but by no means all of the solution, and it has some nice family scenes of grown-up children quarrelling.

I recently suggested to fellow-blogger TracyK that there is a category of books which could be described as: ‘If I were stuck in a B&B overnight with nothing to read, I would be delighted to find this book (series, author) to read, but I wouldn’t seek it/them out.’ A snappy title, sure to catch on, I’m sure you’ll agree. And that’s the category Ferrars might fall into.

I sent my copy of the book to Tracy, because she collects books with skeletons on the cover, and you can read her review here on her lovely Bitter Tea and Mystery blog.

22 comments:

  1. Moira - I have to say, I do love those 'photos! And corduroy is so classic! As to Ferrars' writing, I understand what you mean. I've read some of her work as E.X. Ferrars, and enjoyed it. I like the way she pictures small-town life, and even though the plots aren't overly deep, they're entertaining I think.

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    1. Yes, she's a classic writer of a certain kind, isn't she? You know you're in safe hands, even if she's not going to set the world alight. And I did enjoy finding the photos.

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  2. Is the top photo of a couple or a mother and son? Maybe I'm being a bit harsh.... but in my defence I'm overdue an eye test.
    I looked Ferrars up on Fantastic Fiction - she did write a lot. Not sure that she is my cup of tea. Based on titles alone I looked up Drowned Rat but the story doesn't entice me. Is there one you would recommend above others for consideration?

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    1. Do you know, this time I think I'm going to say: don't add to your pile Col. Sometimes I say to TracyK 'I read these so you don't have to' and in this case I think she might not be your cup of tea. Just as well, as you say she wrote dozens of them, I wouldn't want to be responsible for your buying up them all before you'd sampled a word.

      I actually think they look like brother and sister - there's something determinedly non-sexy about them.

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    2. Phew.... I'll take a pass with a clear conscience.

      Hmm definitely non-sexy. I always thought when I wore the Arran sweater my mum knitted me that I would be beating the girls off with a stick......now I know why the stick never got used!.

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  3. Love the photos. Yes, that is a useful category: does a book pass the B & B test? She was excellent in her day, but I wouldn't go out of my way to reread her.

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    1. Yes, I do always enjoy them, but can't get too excited at the prospect of reading another. Oh that feels mean!

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  4. Oh! Eighties hair! Takes me back.

    I think Ferrars has some historical significance as part of the new wave of post-GA writers in the 1940s to 1960s but she hung on until 1995, still writing at her death, and I don't believe the stuff she was putting out in the early 1990s differed very much at all from what she was writing in early 1960s, say.

    I recall she has a character, a woman author, commenting how she writes her novels though, then goes back and adds some f-words in to make her publisher happy!

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    1. That's very interesting Curt: I always feel I've read quite a few of her books, but not scratched the surface, nor got straight when the books date from. I t hink I've only read one of the Toby Dyke books. I don't have an overall feel for her oeuvre, the way I do for my favourite writers.

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  5. Thanks very much for linking to my review, Moira. I liked the book quite a lot and actually do plan to look for more. I want to try one in every decade, at the least.

    I love the part that you quoted from... I almost used that in my post. Ferrars seems to have a thing about males not paying enough attention to their looks and clothing.

    The photos of the sweaters are cool, are they really from the 80's? I would have guessed the 70's but then a lot of knitting and crochet pattern books use old photos (even now). I would be thrilled if I could knit a sweater with those patterns, or even a scarf. I have only knitted a little. I did do one scarf with a simple cable pattern and it turned out well, but I get too tense worrying about mistakes.

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    1. Now you've got me wondering about the date! But the hair, as Curt says above, does look 80s, and the source definitely says 80s. But as you say, they could hang around quite a long time. And the couple in the story were wearing old sweaters of course...

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    2. I was just wondering because I don't remember hairstyles like that in the 80's but then that was a long time ago and they do look like teenagers to me. I wore my hair long and mostly straight in the 70's and 80's, and wasn't too fashion conscious ever anyway.

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    3. Tracy didn't you have an 80s perm? I certainly did, and so did many of the women I knew, and the women in magazines....

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    4. I was going to say a resounding no, Moira. I had perms like the when very young and gave up on them, but... now that I remember, I did have a perm in the early eighties, but my hair was still longer. Shoulder length.

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    5. Ha! It's the guilty secret of all of us of that generation Tracy K.

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  6. I read [Your] Neck in a Noose late last year because it started with a "Y" and that's what I needed. I enjoyed it. As you say, she's tried and true, and while perhaps not as scintillating as current Scandinavian mysteries, if I really needed something to read in a Band B or on a plane, I might choose the E.X. (Elizabeth) Ferrars over something else more chancy.

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    1. Excellent reason for choosing a title! If I needed a soothing comfort read, definitely Ferrars over Scandi-noir.

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  7. Hmmm, I could use a few B&B-type books over the summer when I shut the door, don't answer the phone or open up email. So, I'll see what the library has by her, so I can borrow, not buy.

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    1. I like the sound of your summer Kathy. There are quite a lot of copies of her books around, so I hope you get lucky. She is known as EX Ferrars in the USA, I believe.

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  8. I take what I call "reading vacations," which include a lot of mysteries, air-conditioning, iced tea and iced coffee with my favorite "low-fat" frozen yogurt.

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    1. You must be the envy of all your friends, as well as your blogging friends.

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  9. Hah@ I like to take one week "reading vacations," but usually a weekend is the reality.

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