On television, I have been catching up with Doctor Who,though have the most recent episode to go. Apparently many people didn’t like the Robin Hood episode, but I found it rather fun. Especially the comment on the deeply implausible climate of Sherwood Forest in a lot of films.
The Sayers Swindle, Victoria Abbott.
How could I resist that title? Even though as a ‘Book Collector Mystery’ and with recipes at the back there could be no doubt that this fell into that dreaded genre, ‘cosy’ crime. On the plus side, although there are cats in the book*, they do not talk, show undue sentience, or endeavour to solve crime. As for the book, well it isn’t a particularly good book, and it lacks the compulsive page-turning quality that can raise a not particularly good book to something much better. It is an all right book and might go quite well with a bad cold and a rainy day, or generally with people who like this sort of book, but it isn’t my kind of thing. Annoyingly, the one thing that I could have really enjoyed about it – a sense of place, given that it is set in the sort of Upper New York state prosperous small towns that are as much a fantasy to me as 1930s British country houses to a modern reader in New York – wasn’t really there. There is lots of mention of the glowing colours of the fall foliage, but no feeling of locality. As for the plot. Some Sayers first editions were previously pinched. Our plucky heroine must retrieve them. She has a humorous scallywag Irish family, and lives in a cute little flat in the enormous house of her employee, an elderly book-obsessed recluse who has a genius Italian housekeeper/cook and requires our heroine to dress for dinner. There are two potential love interests, both without distinguishing features bar their job titles, and one of whom compares the heroine to Harriet Vane and talks about how he could have fallen for her, while the heroine implausibly (but no more implausibly than anything else) assumes that he fancies their mutual friend who is working overseas.
The heroine does collect the hideous New English Library Sayers paperbacks, though, which leads me to believe that the authors really have read and enjoyed more than the minimal DLS required to write the book.
Miss Pym Disposes
This is not cosy, not in the least. Oh it’s easy to say superficially that it is – amateur detective, set in a women’s training college in the inter-war or just post-war period, lots of golden girls doing gymnastics in golden sunlight or walking and having picnics in fields of golden buttercups and everyone of the right class. Except that it isn’t about those things at all. Anyway, I loved it. Nice, friendly, wanting to be comfortable Lucy Pym who wants others to take hard decisions, but won’t herself. Edward Adrian, the balding Romeo. The staff. The students. The setting**. Desterro. And the ending. The ending – all of it - is exactly my kind of ending. I complained about the end of Brat Farrar, but am now wondering if I were looking on Tey there with a too cynical eye, and actually that she is perfectly aware of what I’m objecting to and pointing out what quite likely really would happen.
I had identified four potential people whomightuvdunnit: Desterro, Miss Hodge, Innes, and Nash. I hoped it wouldn’t be Desterro (it would have been in Heyer, of course). Miss Hodge I saw as looking for a way out of her predicament, and quite liked that. Nash I wasn’t that bothered about, it didn’t seem interesting. Innes would be. So the two for the price of one angsty ending was brilliant. I hold out some hope for Mary (unlike Miss Pym) given that she has so far escaped Nash’s influence as to reject the job and not go on holiday to Norway together. Hopefully once she gets home she can have a nervous breakdown and her father, who evidently is not so fond of Nash as everyone else, can get the truth out of her.
But I love Miss Pym – as a character, that is. She’s a brilliant example of failure to think of things in the round. Oh how awful it would be to send that pretty, distinguished girl to the gallows, life shouldn’t be disrupted like that, unless it is the life of someone I don't like***. But the end of her moral dilemma is that she prescribes less punishment for GBH than for suspected cheating, punishment for murder equal to it, and ultimately, no punishment for murder at all but ruined lives for the innocent bystanders for whose sake she claims to act.
I may now be writing fic.
*I have no objection to cats in books, but they do sometimes act as an indicator species.
**This may have been particularly convincing to me after my August visit to Wentworth Woodhouse, which was a PT training college at exactly this time, and which has a lot of old students come on its tours. There was one on mine. She had loved it, as apparently almost everyone did.
***It strikes me that there are a number of references in the novel to Miss Pym's experiences teaching French to the Fourth form, but that actually her actions and moral perspective are themselves rather reminiscent of the morally-undeveloped 'middle' forms of school stories.
ETA: So I've got rid of the incorrect footer, but how do I add the correct one? I have the box to display the cross-link ticked, but it doesn't.
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