Death of a Favourite Girl (UK title)
The Killing of Katie Steelstock (US title)by Michael Gilbert
commentary: So here’s a small mystery to add to the one in the book.
I re-read this book, and had decided not to blog on it, but still looked at some other bloggers’ reviews: Kate at Cross-Examining Crime posted on it recently - that’s what kick-started my re-read, and I rather agreed with her verdict (OK, but rather uninvolving).
She linked to John Norris’s post over at Pretty Sinister books. He liked the book more than we did, and mentioned some of the details he particularly enjoyed:
Sgt. Shilling displays some surprising knowledge of women's cosmetics and deduces that the lipstick and eyeshadow in Katie's handbag can't be her own. He even goes so far as to sample the shades on the back on his hand like a woman about to get a makeover.Well: exactly the kind of detail that I really enjoy too – but because I had just read the book, I knew for certain that these sentences are not in my copy, a British h/b first edition. So I managed to find an image of the US version above, and there it is.
So why would the sentences have been dropped (or added!) between editions?
This tiny section is not wholly convincing – in 1980, women’s make-up was not nearly as fixed as Gilbert suggests, and the idea of the wrong shades, and of Shilling knowing that, is not terribly likely. But at the same time, my view is: Bring it on, I love detection and clues like that. And now am wondering – if there had been a woman police officer saying that, it would be more convincing. But then, it would have seemed as though the woman was only allowed to do make-up detection, and the likes of me (picky, difficult) probably would have objected to that. I’m finding this whole question full of interest, though I do understand that not everyone will share that. But it also made me question what else might be different in the two editions – and whether that explains the different reactions to it across the Atlantic.
In my version, the first we know of any discrepancy is when the victim’s mother says dramatically ‘This isn’t Katie’s bag.’ Though again she claims to know every lipstick Katie owns - unlikely. And as the point of the bag is that another young woman copies the Favourite Girl’s style in every detail - why isn’t she copying her makeup too?
Anyway. I’m sure this is a mystery that will never be solved. And the book certainly has a good plot – though I saw the ending coming. As John says, it has a surprisingly sympathetic gay storyline. But I thought we never got to know or understand any of the characters, from victim to accused to the lying children. The defence barrister was more of a person than any of them, and also there were a lot of loose ends – the details of the second murder & the child perjury seem to have gone missing…
And Motorway junctions have been called that, junctions, always, never Access points as Gilbert repeatedly says - given that the book is placed in a very clear and identifiable geographical location, the fictional small town’s distances from real places laid out carefully, this is very surprising. I even had a most enjoyable online discussion with US friends to find if this was another transatlantic difference – but, as I suspected, no-one ever, anywhere has referred to Access points. (I started out by saying that it was a dull question, but I couldn’t have been more wrong – the details of what people called their roads, and how they got onto and off them, and the wide regional variations in the US, were fascinating.)
But, Michael Gilbert books are never less than entertaining. There are many of them on the blog – click on the label below.
Pictures from advert and magazine feature from the era.