The second in a (so far) 6 book series, this one started off much more slowly for me, as the author takes the time to set the murder scene, introduce the suspects, and hint at motivations before we ever hear from our two MCs. I recognise the value of this, but I mostly find it tedious.
Once the body drops, the pace starts to pick up, albeit slowly, and Bonnet makes very few appearances until the last half of the book. From this point on, I once again fell into Aix-en-Provence – and Umbria Italy! – and lost myself in the mystery, the setting and the characters.
The mystery plotting was very good, although I think Longworth could be accused of over-complicating it. But I totally didn’t see that ending coming and when it came it was tense.
Murder in the Rue Dumas wasn’t quite as good as the first one, but it was still better than most cozies available now – it’s got a much more ‘traditional mystery’ feel and I can’t wait for book three to arrive in the post.
This was my Free Friday Read #5 and was 296 pages long.
Let me get the most egregious bit out of the way: the editing was bad. I’d go so far as to say no human being copy-edited this book. Missing words, wrong words (it instead of is or to instead of so), words in the wrong order, and my favourite:
“She lingered under the shower, watching the hot water roll over her tummy, which was beginning to protrude a bit, down to her toes.”
If your stomach is protruding down to your toes, it’s probably protruding more than a bit.
And finally, I hate the word ‘tummy’ the same way so many hate ‘moist’, and it’s used a lot in this book.
But it was a delightfully great mystery in a more traditional, rather than cozy, style. I had my doubts because frankly, I’d never heard of it or the others in the series and since it was a Penguin publication, I had to wonder why it didn’t seem to receive much in the way of marketing love.
Verleque is an ass; he comes from great wealth and has grand ideas about food and wine and cigars, while his ex, Bonnet is cheerful and kind and universally loved. The death of Bonnet’s old childhood friend brings them back into each others’ orbits as Verleque investigates the death and relies on Bonnet’s connections and memories to sort out what happened.
This is not a book for anyone with a low tolerance of character building; a lot of the book (third person pov) is spent getting to know Verleque and Bonnet as individuals before seeing them work together. What would feel like extraneous filler in other books seems necessary here to make Verleque sympathetic; he’s still a bit of an ass, but by the end it seems more understandable, and a great personal secret lurks in the background, presumably to be revealed in a later book.
The mystery was really well plotted; so many possible avenues, a killer I didn’t see coming and a not entirely neat and tidy ending. And the atmosphere: Aix-en-Provence – what is it about French countryside settings?
If you want a good, traditional mystery that spends time creating rich, complex characters, I definitely recommend this – but if you read digitally, maybe check out the ebook version in hopes that the editing debacle has since been corrected.
In this definitive collection, Edgar Award-winning editor Otto Penzler selects a multifarious mix from across the entire history of the locked room story, which should form the cornerstone of any crime reader's library.
Virtually all of the great writers of detective fiction have produced masterpieces in this genre, including Agatha Christie, Edgar Allan Poe, Dorothy L. Sayers, Arthur Conan Doyle, Raymond Chandler, G.K. Chesterton, John Dickson Carr, Dashiell Hammett, Ngaio Marsh and Stephen King.
The purest kind of detective story involves a crime solved by observation and deduction, rather than luck, coincidence or confession. The supreme form of detection involves the explanation of an impossible crime, whether the sort of vanishing act that would make Houdini proud, a murder that leaves no visible trace, or the most unlikely villain imaginable.
There were so many promising selections and recommendations from everyone for locked-room mysteries, I found it a little overwhelming: what to choose?
Then I stumbled across this book at my library and it seemed the perfect answer; at 900+ pages I was certain to find a few good stories and all of them locked room mysteries.
I was not disappointed. In fact, I think I’ll probably buy a copy of this book for my personal shelves; if half the stories are as good as the ones I’ve read, I can’t go wrong.
For the Halloween Bingo challenge, I read the following stories; noneof them less than 4.5-5 star reads:
A Terribly Strange Bed – Wilkie Collins What do Disney’s Haunted Mansion and the movie Murder by Death have in common? This story! It was so much fun; I admit I wasn’t sure how much I’d like Collins’ writing style after listening to Mrs. Zant and the Ghost, but I found this story so entertaining, I’m feeling much more confident about picking up his longer classics.
The House of Haunts – Ellery Queen A new author for me – I know, Queen is a legend! – but I’d never picked him up, thinking his work might be more noir or graphic than I’d like. HA! It was great! This is the longest of the stories I read, and it had all the elements: dark, forbidding atmosphere, gothic houses, mentally disturbed residents, an unending snow storm, a question of paranormal influences, and of course a locked room setup. The ending is nothing short of fantastical and cunning, with Queen coming across as a blend of Whimsey and Holmes.
The Burglar Who Smelled Smoke – Lawrence Block & Lynn Wood Block Years ago I had a first date that took me to a bookstore and bought me a Bernie Rhodenbarr mystery. Despite such auspicious beginnings, the boyfriend didn’t last, but I’d read a few of the Burglar Who… books, so I pounced on this story as a guarantee of something light. After reading it, I sort of think Block would have been better off keeping Rhondenbarr confined to the short story format: this was a much better mystery than I remember the full-length books being. This is a true locked-room mystery, and while most relatively savvy readers will recognise the method of death, the details were really fiendishly clever, while still being a light, entertaining read.
The Poisoned Dow ’08 – Dorothy L. Sayers My first Montague Egg mystery, and probably the ‘weakest’ of the stories I chose at 4.5 stars. Egg reminds me too much of Poirot, only a little bit… smarmy. This was also the most conventional of the locked room scenarios offered in the stories I read. Still, Sayers is a master and given a choice, I might choose Egg over Poirot in short story format. Maybe.
Death at the Excelsior – P.G. Wodehouse Did you know Wodehouse wrote crime stories before he brought Wooster and Jeeves into the world? I didn’t, and when I saw him in the TOC there was no way I skipping it. It’s a classic mystery, and there are hints of the wry, dry humour Wodehouse would become famous for here and there. Another truly locked room mystery, with shades of The Adventure of the Speckled Band, but ultimately very different. This short could also be used for the Black Cat Square.
I’m looking forward to owning my own copy of this; I highly recommend it for classic mystery lovers.
(Read September 8-9 2016; Library copy; ISBN 9780857898920)