Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Tuesday Night Club: A is for Aird

 
The Tuesday Night Bloggers are a group of crime fiction fans who choose a different topic each month, then write a weekly post on it. Our current theme is 'A is for April, A is for Anything'. We can take the A any way we want to, so look out for some varied blogposts.


A for April logo


And of course please join in if you would like to – one-offs and casuals always welcome.

This month I am collecting the links, so just let me know (in the comments below or on Facebook) if you have anything to add.

This week's links: 

Kate over at Cross-Examining Crime looked at A for Alibis

And Brad at Ah Sweet Mystery did An Anatomy of an Adaptation


As ever, Bev at My Reader’s Block did the splendid logo.

We tend to go for Golden Age books, but after all there are no rules this month – A is for Anything. So I have chosen to write about a book by Catherine Aird, who is Anyway generally Agreed to be very much in the tradition of the Golden Age.

 

 

His Burial Too by Catherine Aird


published 1973

 
HIs Burial Too


She was framed by the classical lines of the Georgian doorway. She stood quite still as she regarded the three policemen. There was something a little unexpected about her appearance—almost foreign. It took Sloan a moment or two to pin down what it was—and then it came to him. It was her clothes. It was high summer in England and this girl was wearing dark brown. Not a floral silk pattern, not a cheerful cotton, nor even a pastel linen such as his own wife, Margaret, was wearing today. But dark brown. It was a simple, utterly plain dress, unadorned save for a solitary string of beads. He was surprised to note that the whole effect was strangely cool-looking on such a hot day. There was the faintest touch of auburn in the colouring of her hair which was replicated in the brown of the dress.

A purist might have said that her mouth was rather too big to be perfect but …

Sloan wasn’t a purist.

He was a policeman.

On duty.
 
commentary: I picked up this one on the recommendation of my friend Sergio, over at Tipping my Fedora: he reviewed it last year and got my interest going.

It has a crackerjack setup: a body is buried under a massive marble statue, which has fallen on the victim inside a church tower in such a way that no-one can get in or out. It’s absurdly over-the-top, and completely unbelievable, but terrific fun – and the solution is completely unbelievable too so there’s a certain symmetry there.

The thought of this ridiculous plot has been entertaining me ever since I began reading - and the book as a whole is very  entertaining. The giant marble statue
“…was a weeping widow and ten children all mourning the father. You know the sort of thing, sir… This one’s called the Fitton Bequest. A memorial to remember Mr Fitton by …” 

“I should have thought myself,” remarked Leeyes, “that ten children were …" 
“The workmen moved it into the church tower last week,” went on Sloan hastily.

It takes a while to move the lump, so the body can’t be identified for a while, though the doctor does his best to reach some conclusions, and there is a local man gone missing…

As Sergio points out, there are far too many red herrings – something seems frightfully important and full of meaning, and then suddenly we find out that there was a simple, irrelevant explanation. Meanwhile there is much stress on the Italian ways of the young woman above – who has just come back from the country -  her connections, the contrast with English ways: but all that is left hanging at the end.

The choppy style – short sentences as at the end of the extract above – gets wearing. But Aird has a light touch, with some funny running jokes such as the very stupid assistant to our own Inspector Sloane, and the bad driving of the doctor:
The Dean of Calleford, a blameless man whose faith was seemingly as firm as that of anyone in the diocese, had once tried to get out of Dr Dabbe’s moving car, wishing he had led a better life the while.
There’s a character called George Osborne, and a reference to ‘going into the hush’ as a slang term for going into the countryside – a usage I cannot find anywhere else.

Catherine Aird offers a very enjoyable 70s take on a Golden Age mystery: her settings are pleasantly of their time, but the conventions very much of earlier crime stories. And they are guaranteed entertainment, and short. I am getting to like Inspector Sloane a lot.

I do recommend Sergio’s blogpost on the book.

For more Catherine Aird books, click on the label below.

The picture is from the Clover Vintage Tumbler.





















38 comments:

  1. Not that long ago I read another Aird book - The Stately Home Murder - VERY enjoyable! I haven't read anything else by her yet....

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    1. Oh, and you've covered it! I just revisited your post on it. Looks like I chose the right one to start with, the shop had a LOT of her books so I picked just one...

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    2. I don't rush to get another one, but always enjoy when I do read one, and no doubt will slowly work my way through them all in time...

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  2. Sometimes 'over the top' can be fun, Moira, so I can see how you thought this was enjoyable. And I do like the way Aird creates some offbeat characters. The Sloane/Crosby dynamic's well done, too, in my opinion.

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    1. I agree with you Margot, and I like the fact that for once the chief sleuth doesn't have an incredibly supportive and wonderful sidekick.

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  3. I liked some of the earlier Aird novels such as Henrietta Who?, The Religious Body and the one you reviewed today, but my last Aird read, a one from the 2000s, didn't work for me, as it felt a bit stuck in a time warp.

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    1. I need to look at her list! I don't think I knew she went on writing for so long, I don't have a clear picture of her timeline.

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    2. She's still alive, apparently! 86, according to Wikipedia....

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    3. Not only that, but she is still writing and got the CWA Diamond Dagger a couple of years ago. I sat next to her at dinner at Crimefest and she was delightful.

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    4. Oh my goodness, how impressive! Thanks both. Good for her. I see she produced a new Sloan mystery last year...

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  4. Yes, they are set in some other parallel university. They are a light entertaining read with some excellent jokes. And admirably short (I am aware that you and I like authors who don't outstay their welcome, Moira!)

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    1. Yes! Short is good! As is entertainment value, and not always being challenged. There is room for an Aird in our lives now and again.

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  5. Lightweight, funny, and unmemorable, which means you can enjoy re-reading them several years later.

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    1. Exactly, there's always room for books like that. No-one is going to forget the ending of one of the great crime stories, but with lesser ones I frequently have False Memory Syndrome, and confidently think I remember who did it. So it's a splendid twist when I am wrong.

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    1. Yes, fair enough. Too light for you...

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  7. Typo - going into the bush?

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    1. Ooh, interesting - clever idea. This is the quote:

      “We are about to venture into the interior, Crosby …”
      “You mean ‘the hush,’ sir,” he said reprovingly. Constable Crosby prided himself on being up to date with the new colloquialisms. This was one of the factors which made him unpopular at the Police Station. “The hush,” he repeated. “That’s what it’s called now, sir.”
      “Is it indeed?”

      -- so it is perfectly possible, and this was on Kindle where optical reading can go wrong. We need someone with a paper copy to check it out...

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    2. What page number? I have my copy right here - by pure chance, I finished it on the train into work, and popped it on the office library shelf afterwards, so it just happened to be to hand.

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    3. Oh no, hold on a second, COMPLETE dunderhead moment, I forgot this wasn't The Stately Home Murder....

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    4. Oh great! No page numbers on the Kindle in this edition, but it is in Chapter 3 'A Mere Accident', about 3 pages in, where Sloan and Crosby are preparing to leave the police station. I am agog!

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    5. So close to resolution! Never mind, someone will come up with the goods...

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    6. Well, I looked it up on Google Books, and in the preview, it's "the hush" in both instances. I'm pretty sure "hush" is correct here, because "bush" is a bit Australian, kookaburras and things with pouches, fair dinkum, a dingo ate my baby, that kind of thing?

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    7. Oh, I AM so not on form today - I misunderstood "the interior" as being a room, not into the countryside.

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    8. Bush is a British term, because a B & B that I stayed in when I visited the UK a billion years ago was in a small village called Bampton in the Bush. We were told that the term meant that there were no roads into the village; you had to go through the "bush." Which I took to mean on footpaths and across stiles.

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    9. Daniel: they are going into the countryside, but rural villages rather than the wild! I think it could be either.
      Paula: I have never come across that exact usage, very interesting...

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    10. Yes, there was another Bampton (in fact, it was a place in another book I read), and calling the smaller one Bampton in the Bush distinguished it from the other.

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    11. Very interesting - I'll have to look out for more examples of those types of placenames.

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  8. As I also said at Sergio's post, this is the next one in the series for me to read, but with too many books I never get to it. I am sure I will enjoy it, Aird has never failed to entertain yet. I haven't read any later than this, and I will continue reading in order as long as I have the books.

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    1. She is at least a quick and easy read, and writes short books Tracy!

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  9. I enjoyed "Henrietta Who?" but haven't had the chance to read more books by Catherine Aird. It was a delightful read, a diversion, nothing ponderous to think about.

    Come to think of it I could use more of these books and more Nero Wolfe books, too. Anything humorous and light to distract from what's going on here.

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    1. Well indeed Kathy, and same this side of the Atlantic. I want something entertaining and something set in the past so I don't have to think too much about the present...

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  10. Yes. Escapism = Diversion and Relief.

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    1. .. and a way of staying sane in current climate...

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  11. Not to mention the rate of chocolate consumption over here.

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    1. It's the comfort that never fails...

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