Saturday, 12 December 2015
Murder for Xmas
Murder at the Old Vicarage by Jill McGown
[Police duo Lloyd and Judy have been called out to a crime: he tries to cheer her up]
There was something wrong. But then, he thought, she had been dragged out at 2 o’clock on Christmas morning. “Sorry,” he said.
She hadn’t even asked for details, and he had been looking forward to imparting them.
“One man dead,” he said. “That’s all I know. But you’ll never guess where it happened.”
No response. Not even irritation. He soldiered on. “The vicarage, would you believe? Our very own Murder at the Vicarage.”
“Murder at the Vic- ” He sighed. “Of course, you’re not an Agatha Christie fan, are you?”
“Vicarages, snow-bound villages,” he said, with a grin. “With any luck we’ll find a retired Indian Army colonel, a gigolo, a faintly sinister Austrian professor, and an old lady who’ll sort it all out for us.”
“Are you listening to anything I’m saying?”
“I didn’t think you were saying anything important,” she said.
commentary: Of course, as we well know round here, Agatha Christie’s Murder at the Vicarage is set at the height of summer. Back when there was a recent blogpost on the book, we got crime fiction fans, Christie aficionados and fashion mavens all discussing at length whether a respectable woman in a 1930 afternoon dress could have hidden a gun in her underwear or not. Just how flimsy was that summer dress? The varying contributions were completely fascinating. I particularly recommend Shay’s item in the comments – personal experience.
Anyway. We still appreciate this attempt to look at the genre of the Christmas mystery. Jill McGown is my rediscovery of the year – what a clever writer, within the conventions of the police procedural: there’s another of her books here on the blog. My friend Tracy over at Bitter Tea and Mystery I think got me going on finding McGown again, and she has reviewed this book on her blog here.
It is a slightly grim story, involving some rather miserable families, and with the usual troubles in the private lives of the investigating officers (at least you never got that with Christie) – but McGown does her personal alchemy, and it is very good. Its being an ‘old’ vicarage might make you expect that it is a yuppified country house (discarded clergy residences were big with Sloanes in the 80s) but far from it – this is a real old-fashioned vicarage family.
And clothes are important in the book – clearly someone got blood on them, so where are the clothes? There is the question of the peach-coloured polyester dress with the coffee stain – is that too obvious?
Snow is often a feature of a Xmas mystery, even though it very rarely snows at Christmas in England, and most family parties are highly unlikely to be snowed in… but it certainly adds to the joy of the books.
There will be more Xmas murder stories on the blog before the festive season is over.
The picture is Vicarage in the Snow by Eric Ravilious.