Friday, 20 January 2017

The Murders of Mrs Austin and Mrs Beale by Jill McGown

 
published 1991
 
 
Murders of Mrs Austin 2
And the jogging suit. Oh, God, the jogging suit. Everything else he possessed was sitting in the washing machine, soaking wet. He’d missed the jogging suit, which was just as well, really. If only he’d missed a sweater and jeans. But no, he had to come back looking as though he was on holiday. He’d seen the look that passed between Lloyd and the doctor. It wasn’t his fault. The colour drained from his face again, but he fought it this time….




Murders of Mrs Austin


Steve had been given accommodation, he had been fed, he had been looked after better than Beale’s mother would have been. He just hadn’t been able to leave. Not that Beale had actually said so, or locked him in or anything.

Beale was introducing him to his solicitor, a thinly handsome fortyish West Indian in an expensive grey suit. Steve frowned. ‘ I don’t get it,’ he said.

Beale sighed. ‘ Steve, if I had let you go last night just after I’d told you about Mrs Austin, what would you have done?’

‘Run,’ said Steve, with feeling.
 
commentary: Jill McGown truly was one of the greats in crime fiction at the end of the 20th century, and I can’t imagine why she isn’t better known and better-remember – she died in 2007. Her books are intricate and very clever, they have great, believable characters, and wonderful crime plots with excellent clues.

This one sounds as though it is going to be a cozy, with perhaps Mrs A and Mrs B being competing bakers at the WI. Well far from it – as ever McGown’s quiet market towns have all kinds of things going on in them, and the relationships are weird and compelling, and often rather exotic amid banal-seeming trappings. She had a great understanding of human motives and drives.

The opening section is slightly off, because of course we know from the title who the victims are, so it is slightly odd that there is a tension about who died and where and when. But once you get going this plot is a complete pageturner with a most satisfying ending.

She’s a glancing, witty writer - I love lines like this:
[The two heavies] on either side of Steve tensed up. Beale wasn’t happy, and they knew that. You’d swear they were almost human, thought Steve.
And
‘I shouldn’t by rights be doing this,’ he said, leading the way. ‘But none of the directors has come in this morning.’ No, thought Mickey. There’s a good reason for that [violent deaths], as you are about to find out.
And
But rather like judging a talent contest, everyone’s second choice won.
As well as the excellent plot, the book contained many fascinating glimpses of its publication date of 1991. A character has a Filofax, and that is worth commenting on. Access to the block of flats is important:
It was odd, talking to a camera and having a wall answer. Lloyd rather wished he had been around in the days of hansom cabs and Sherlock Holmes. He could have called the Great Detective in, and gone to the south of France with Judy while he sorted it all out. ‘Come up,’ said Beale, and the door buzzed, and clicked. The Great Detective would have had his work cut out getting into the bloody building, never mind sorting out what had gone on there.
Lloyd and his colleague and lover Judy are one of the least-annoying couples in crime fiction.

Looking at the lawyer in his expensive suit – Bill Selnes of Mysteries and More is my go-to guy when it comes to lawyers’ clothing and general gents’ nattiness (and various other Clothes in Books areas too, such as practicality and cold-weather gear). I will be interested to hear his verdict on the outfit above.

There’s a couple of other Jill McGown books on the blog – I’m enjoying slowly going through them all.



















14 comments:

  1. Isn't this a great series, Moira? I love the way you describe Lloyd and Hill, too - ...one of the least annoying couples.... That's such a great way to describe them! I like very much her focus on the mystery, too (i.e. rather than on lots and lots of sub-plots). Fine, fine series!

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    1. Absolutely in agreement! She was such a good writer, as well as having wonderful plots and surprises.

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  2. I agree. She was terrific and should have been much better known. Her ability to combine intricate plots with contemporary sensibilities was excellent.

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    1. Yes exactly. I'm glad to find other fans, and hope we can spread the word further! Her early death was a sad loss to the crime fiction world.

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  3. We are in agreement on this author. I do want to reread another one this year, not sure which one. This one has an interesting title and I remember nothing about it. There is one that I specifically remember, and the two I have read since I started blogging. So several to pick from.

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    1. Yes, I too am looking forward to reading more of them, though sad that the supply is finite. I can't remember which ones I read when they first came out... never this one I think.

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  4. Oh dear...another great sounding author I have never tried. In one way it's nice to hear of such things but in another it's a bit depressing to think of all the great books I will never read.

    I found my own 90's filofax when decluttering last year - it was a little time capsule. I never had a jogging suit though :)

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    1. I still have mine tucked away: I loved the whole system, but got smaller and smaller ones over the years. I did also have some rather awful aerobics gear...
      And I'm sorry, but you really should read Jill McGown.

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  5. Moira: Thanks for the kind words. They are always appreciated. Now to hold my ego in check.

    It is a fine suit. Might it be of Italian design?

    Looking at the suit led me to reflect that I do not have any three piece suits. When I was younger, much younger, I had several but it has been decades since I owned a three piece. Looking at the lawyers of my generation it is uncommon to see an older Saskatchewan lawyer in a three piece suit.

    Looking for the perspective of the younger generation I called my older son, Jonathan, in Calgary. Both of my sons are lawyers.

    Jonathan confirmed that he likes and has several three piece suits. He said three piece suits were not worn by all young Alberta lawyers but there were more of them being worn than a few years ago. He added that the lawyers he knew at his firm in Calgary of my vintage did not wear three piece suits.

    Now, while the suit is well cut, that tie and pocket square are so bland. A bright red tie and a paisley red and gold pocket square would make the suit a stand out.

    It seems a futile quest but I do my best to promote brighter ties and pocket squares for lawyers.

    Jon did tell me that colourful socks are the current legal expression of modern style.




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    1. Excellent serious research there Bill, and thanks for consulting the younger generation. I am conflicted on 3-piece suits, but a good one IS good. And I am with you on the brightening aspects of ties, squares and socks.

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    2. The colorful socks display was a big trend with ALL young men in the US last year. I'm seeing it less often now. Young men in the US also wear what we smart aleck teens used to call "Flood pants" back in the 70s. I'm kind of appalled that pants (trousers, that is) are bought with shorter inseams, or altered so drastically by a tailor to eliminate the "break", just so that those wildly colorful and funky patterns of men's socks can be shown off. To me short trouser legs are not very flattering, just distracting. A continuation of what I call "nerd chic" that also includes oversized square eyeglass frames and cardigan sweaters. I guess I'm turning into my conservative, straight laced parents now that I'm in my mid fifties. Horrid thought!

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    3. I worked out 'flood pants' from context, though felt it could have meant the opposite - long ones that puddled on the floor when you sat down. They are all just fashions and they all look wrong to a different age group. Though obviously, the styles I like are CORRECT...

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  6. Of course, as soon as I read your post I found out the Jill McGown website. Her family have kept it going as a tribute to her and to help keep her books read. As soon as I can find some of her novels (and especially the Lloyd and Hill ones),I'll start reading them. You've managed to steer some very good books my way.

    The McGown site is very good, but the 'Get in touch with me' e-mail service, where she promises to try and give you a personal reply to any question really hit me below the belt for some reason. There's something very poignant and 'Mary Celeste' like about these sites where you know that the creator will never return to them.

    Did you know that they filmed A SHRED OF EVIDENCE for TV back in 2003, with Philip Glenister and Michelle Collins. Nothing more came of it, which is rather a shame.

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    1. That's rather sad about the website, though it's probably good it is still there. I'm sure you will like the books, she is very clever.
      Philip Glenister! Absolutely ideal as Lloyd, what a shame it didn't take off.

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