AFTER LAST WEEK’S LIST OF WARTIME HOMEFRONT BOOKS, AND THE COMMEMORATION OF THE VE DAY 70TH ANNIVERSARY, THE BLOG IS GOING TO FEATURE SOME POST-WAR BOOKS…..INCLUDING THIS ONE, WHICH ALSO FITS INTO THE #1949 BOOKS MEME
[The cast has assembled in a luxurious ranch in New Mexico, including narrator Jane and her husband Dagobert]
I was spared the necessity of comment by the arrival in best Western style of a galloping horse at the patio entrance. A girl slid dextrously from the saddle, pushed open the gate, and strode toward us. She wore blue jeans and a man’s white shirt. She was hatless, and her straight fair hair had been blown in all directions by the wind. She wore no make-up. At first I didn’t realize she was as old as twenty-three or four, and that with a little care she might be pretty…
The Karnaks appeared…. Sue, with her fair hair loose around her shoulders and only her lips made up, looked prettier than I remembered her. I saw Dagobert rise with, I thought unnecessary gallantry and offer her his chair. The Karnaks were both dressed for riding, Sue in perfectly tailored jodhpurs and a dull green tweed jacket of the sort nowadays found in England with the label: for export only. I remembered that Miranda had arranged a riding expedition…
Sue was now talking about her headache and complaining that she felt chilly. I had forgotten about her headache, and suggested that she was probably dying of slow starvation. Peggy was more considerate. She at least ran back to her room and produced a light-green cardigan.
observations: Delano Ames wrote light murder stories featuring a detecting couple, Jane and Dagobert Brown. Rich Westwood of Past Offences, whose Crime of the Century meme we are joining in with today, claims he hadn’t heard of Ames till 2 weeks ago, and now sees them everywhere, so I am continuing the harassment by choosing this as my book for 1949, the year chosen for May. (Ames has been here on the blog before, Murder Maestro Please, and on Col’s Criminal Library, Corpse Diplomatique, recently too.)
I find the books harmless and entertaining, with a couple of reservations. I have to keep reminding myself that Jane and Dagobert are English – they give not the slightest impression of being anything but solid Americans in the way they talk, act and dress. On the whole the female narration is well-done, but I found some of Jane’s pronouncements on how to keep a man a bit much (even allowing for the date) and very much male-oriented.
The manoeuvrings round the ranch on the night of the murder are ridiculous, obviously aimed at creating plenty of suspects and possibilities, but really – Miranda (the bossy queen of the family) and…
SLIGHT SPOILER ON VICTIM, GIVEN AWAY ON BACK JACKET AND IN PUBLICITY
….obvious potential victim simply doesn’t appear in the book till after she’s dead, and is never seen at all by Jane. This seems as though it should be significant, but isn’t. In fact the air of a really difficult and awkward weekend visit, full of etiquette problems, is unexpectedly very well done, as Jane and Dagobert wander around unable to find their hosts or anyone else to help them. There is an odd scene where the hostess, who has been cooking the enchiladas in the kitchen, goes away and doesn’t turn up for dinner but the food still appears, apparently by magic (I presume staff are involved, but no explanation is offered.)
The various plots going on in the house recall some tricks from a Margery Allingham, and from an almost-contemporaneous Agatha Christie. Virtually everyone is accused in turn, as all have been up to something or other…
As a 1949 book: there is an air of the war being over and everyone going home. The sherriff’s son is having trouble over a wartime marriage. One character is a scientist at the atomic research station near Alamogordo, and I had high hopes of this as a plot development, but it is completely irrelevant. A cowboy wears a silk shirt in a check pattern - this seems somehow very unlikely.
The two women’s contrasting riding gear described above seemed to show a world about to change dramatically.
The top one is, obviously, an advert for Levis.
The second picture is an advert for shape-changing foundationwear – if ever there was an outfit that didn’t require it, it’s this one.
Cardigan girl in the 3rd picture, standing in front of an authentic Jane-and-Dagobert jalopy, was actually photographed on a ranch.