The Christmas entries are done, and we are moving on to New Year scenes from books. People say ‘Christmas is for family, New Year for friends’ but that doesn’t make murder any less likely…
We’ve been running seasonal entries on the blog since the beginning of December, you can find more, many more, by clicking on the tabs below
[the book] The Gilded Man by John Dickson Carr
[excerpts from throughout the book]
‘New Year’s party!’ said Mr Naseby. ‘Damn silly idea, if you ask me.’
Dwight Stanhope smiled slightly. ‘Not a bit of it. My wife wanted to give a Christmas party, with masquerade. If there’s anything in the world I dislike, it’s getting dressed up. Furthermore, Christmas parties mean mess; and I’m not fond of mess. As it is, I get off lightly.’…
‘New Year’s Eve is our real entertainment. The children hereabouts look forward to it so much.’
‘Sort of yearly feature?’
‘Yes. In the theatre upstairs. We’ve got a conjuror this year.’
Christabel Stanhope had come out on the landing from the opposite side of the house. She wore a fur coat, hastily drawn on, over nightgown and negligee….
[Betty’s] fur-trimmed dressing gown was open.
comments: This is a New Year’s houseparty - rather than Christmas, for the reasons outlined by the host above. And I must take issue with him: I both disapprove of his ideas, and disagree with them – a fancy dress ball is wonderful, and also often associated with New Year as shown in several blogposts...
The Gilded Man isn't JDC’s finest hour, but it has some good elements. Seasonality, a snowfall which means, y’know, footprints and all that, and Betty and Nick go out in the snow, and there’s is a skiing suit:
We have HM, Sir Henry Merivale, in charge, as eccentric and temperamental and enjoyable as ever.
The action centres on a big house, built by a famous actress of an earlier generation, a house that includes a theatre among its amenities. (Almost as if it had to be there so that there was a conjuring show which – of course – HM is going to take over and provide.)
There is a wealthy businessmen, his wife and two daughters, who are stepsisters for no reason that I could work out – I don’t know if I missed something, but couldn’t they just have been parents and children? There was a whole load of Plotty McPlotface bits that seemed off the point to me: I can't really say for fear of spoilers, but half the strands – including a fairly dramatic one, and the title - seemed to lead nowhere.
And on the other hand, there was one clue so blatantly planted that I reread the paragraph three times (with a furrowed brow) and thought ‘but that would mean...?’ and that seemed too obvious. As it turns out...
But on the plus side – fur trimmed negligee! Fur over negligee! These are people who know how to wander round a house at night in the proper Clothes-in-Books approved manner. We often discuss here the necessity of taking a dressing-gown with you on a trip, because no private bathrooms, and now we know that if you have a fur coat you needn’t bother.
And, as always, a quick sharp enjoyable read with some good moments. Not up there with the best of JDC, but definitely a good book to spend time with at this time of year.
Fur-trimmed negligee from Kristin, and yes that’s Joan Crawford wearing it.
Picture of the conjurer at the children’s party from the Tyne and Wear Archives. The children’s entertainment made me think somewhat of the very sinister one in an MR James short story, Casting the Runes.
Fur-trimmed negligee? Yes, that is definitely a plus in a story like this, Moira! And I do like the thought of a New Year's party as a context for a story. I think you bring up an interesting thing about that very blatant clue. I wonder if veteran, sophisticated crime fiction readers like yourself sometimes have a more difficult time getting completely lost in a story, because of being so alert for different cues and clues. It's not a matter of not enjoying a story, so much as it is, 'Oh, I see where this is going now!' Does that makes sense?ReplyDelete
Yes you are right, I have read too many books, and authors can't be expected to allow for that. It's a very good point.Delete
And I am certain you always pack a fur-trimmed negligee when going to stay for a country house party, Margot - your flirty French maid told the valet that it was a nuisance to have to hang it up and shake it out, I overheard her.....
A Carr for Christmas, perfect! Hooe you have a really happy new year Moira (Pfizer and AstraZeneca willing)!ReplyDelete
A Happy New Year to you and yours Sergio, and yes, what could be more ideal reading over the festive period...Delete
Now I feel like reading this book, too, so I take this opportunity to say that a substantial proportion of the books I ordered for my Christmas reading this year came from this blog. I love it and wish it a long and healthy life, and I wish you, Moira, a Happy New Year from Sweden!ReplyDelete
Thank you Birgitta, there is nothing nicer to hear, I really appreciate the kind words. A Happy New Year to you and yours....Delete
Yes, if I recall correctly there is nothing about the solution of this that shows Carr's brilliance. There is a short story with a similar setup but with a different solution, I think. One of many examples where Carr did this.ReplyDelete
Happy New Year!
I pretty much always enjoy reading Carr, but that's a good description of this one, that it doesn't show his brilliance. There are those ones that make you gasp out loud, and that's what we live for...Delete
A fur-trimmed negligee! Lovely! Haven't read this one yet, but I don't think I will be in a special hurry.ReplyDelete
Every time I look at a list of Carr books, I see ones that I had never noticed before: I have read so many of them, but never get to the end. This one I swear wasn't on the list the previous time I looked! And they can't all be masterpieces...Delete
But fur-trimmed negligees make it all worthwhile. And see my comment to Margot above - you too!
I would follow up on this one just because it is set at New Year's. And I like books published in the 1940s. But right now I have a lot of books by this author that I have not read, so I will hold off for a while.ReplyDelete
I always think with JDC, there are plenty left to read, no hurrry...Delete
Aided and abetted by the spousal unit (who opens the bureau drawers for him) our senior cat makes sure that all of my lingerie is fur-trimmed. Unfortunately, it's ginger.ReplyDelete
That's hilarious, but also slightly off-putting...Delete
Still not read the Carr that I think you sent me. Hangs head in shame....ReplyDelete
Come on now - it's not as if you had anything else to read 😉😉😉😉Delete