‘I shall wait up, I think. What would you like to do?’
‘Knit,’ replied Mrs. Bradley. She went up to her room and returned with a repulsive bundle of dead-looking natural-coloured wool. ‘Do you think purple or puce would look better as a contrast with this?’
‘Good heavens!’ said Deborah, expressing simple horror. ‘It’s bad enough as it is!’
Mrs. Bradley grinned amiably and set to work on huge wooden needles to fabricate what appeared to be some sort of shawl, a type of garment which, needless to say, she never wore.
observations: Mrs Bradley’s clothes are always a joy – elsewhere in this book she goes out (to view a dead body) wearing ‘a ski-ing suit she had borrowed from [niece] Deborah, enormous gauntlet gloves of her own, and Jonathan’s motor-cycling helmet’. How practical. In earlier entries on Mitchell books we featured a wonderful attempted (failed) makeover scene from Laurels are Poison and a really excellent Sherlock Holmes costume party in Watson’s Choice.
The last time I read a Mrs Bradley book – A Hearse On May-Day – I complained that the first half was highly enjoyable, and then ‘nothing much seems to happen till suddenly the solution to a rather dull mystery is announced, to nobody’s great surprise.’ This one is similar, except the second half consists of a lot of activity that leads nowhere.
There is one scene, about two-thirds in, which seems to have something missing – I don’t know if this is a problem with the Kindle formatting, but an exciting attack and defence moment, two people struggling, ends like this:
‘You be damned for a liar!’ he said. ‘Of course I haven’t been in Oxford. Get out of here and go home!’The next line is a different scene, different people, talking about a different incident. You never know with Mitchell, but I think something has gone wrong there.
The first half IS splendid – Christmas in the country, houseparty in the big house, servants, visitors coming and going, poison in the curry, snow blocking the roads. There are poison pen letters, which would have fitted in well with our CiB meme last year. Of course, everyone agrees, it must be a woman writing them, probably ‘that Mrs. La-di-dah that does for Mr. Fullalove.’ Again with the gender roles, I was surprised to find this: ‘Aspirin, of course, suggested the presence of a woman.’
There’s a great post-war rationing atmosphere: a pig-club, a shortage of whisky, and this about Christmas presents:
‘That awful Amy Curtis has sent me an awful handbag,’ she announced. ‘Do you think I could send her that book token for a guinea which Myra Standish sent me and didn’t sign, and buy myself some stockings with the money? I’ve had dozens of book-tokens this Christmas and no stockings at all.’(As we know from other posts, stockings were hard to come by just then, and this entry deals exactly with the question of giving them for Christmas.)
Mrs Bradley is always an omniscient, multi-skilled genius, but she excels herself this time by expressing a comma in her voice:
‘You’ll have to leave your digging for to-day, I’m afraid,’ she said gravely. ‘The police, you know. Ed Brown was shot at, just after half-past twelve.’
The comma indicated in her voice prevented the statement from being a lie, but this fine shade of meaning was lost upon her hearers.
The investigation seems to go on for months, apparently to accommodate some nature writing about the countryside, which I found pointless and annoying, but the book is well worth it for the first half.
I wonder if Mrs Bradley being quite so bad at knitting was a joking comment on those two arch-knitters and sleuths, Miss Marple and Miss Silver?
The shawls above come from the much-loved Free Vintage Knitting Pattern site .