Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Michel Herbert & Eugene Wyl : La Maison Interdite, 1932

"Reader Beware: SPOILERS"

Michel  Herbert & Eugene Wyl, published it in 1932.
La Maison Interdite, since then, including the experts, has always been considered a classic of the Locked Room.
In Italy it was published, not full edition, in 1941, in the series of GEM, "Gialli Economici Mondadori" (pre-war series), with the title "La casa vietata" but with a pseudonym: Michael Wally. Igor Longo discovered many years ago  Michael Wally was the union of  name by the first, Michel (Herbert) and the surname by the second (Eugene) Wyl.
The biographical facts are which seem random: it is known that were written three other novels (L’Homme qui disparut, Le Crime derrière le porte, Les Serpents d’Or ).
From some french sources, it appears that the two names Herbert & Wyl, were traceable to the same author, who had also used the pseudonyms Michael Herbert and Joan Sun (to publish other novels) and was born in 1898 and died in 1978; other sources speak about two distinct authors.
Unfortunately since then, the novel La Maison Interdite has not been published, nor has anyone thought of proposing it in full.
And that's a shame, because I think it's a  unknown masterpiece (to us, of course). And I must say that from having tried a lot but never having found (rarely), I finally managed to read it just because it was given to me by a friend at Christmas.
First is notable for a feature throughout the French, the atmosphere: an impossible crime occurred in a castle surrounded by a park.
Many elements characteristic of this atmosphere:
Luckenbach Castle, built by banker Goldenberg, then ended up in jail for defrauding many investors, and several million francs disappeared into thin air (which is suspected to have been hidden in the castle), a series of warnings to all those who have become After the owners to abandon the castle, on pain of death, the death of one of the castle, Grodman, what happens in one case, the purchase of property by a butcher, even the president of an association of butchers, who got rich during World War I, with orders to the army, Stamford, Stamford sending three threatening letters, the last of which announces the death at midnight on October 28.
Around the intended victim was a crowd of characters, all of his subordinates: the servant Sting, Butler Merriam, the driver Hector Hunter, the lame Tonio, the former nurse and wife of Charles of Stamford, Teresa; Bennard the custodian of the property; Secretary, Marquis (decayed) Laguyéres.
The night of the alleged murder, Stamford Tonio commandeth to be alert and to accompany a mysterious visitor he expects, so it is, but once entered, into the library, the guest kills Stamford and.. disappears into thin air: for home there's some people and a lot of servants and all are agreed that the murderess was not seen in the basement, ground floor or first floor and is not even out the front door, and there is no' other output (except for a secret passage which is then found in the cellar, but that was not feasible because it is full of water and mud as soon as it opened, the water floods the one who broke through the door, if the hole had been opened before, There would be all that excess water and mud and the floor of the cellar would have shown traces, while it is clean). In short, a disappearance and a magnificent Locked Room .
At this point I report of the additional interesting trivia peculiar of this book.
First, uncharacteristically, the subjects investigated for a murder in a house are not good members of society, but all belonging to the servants, and the rest of the landlord is a butcher, very well characterized (like all the other characters), there are those investigators who arrive at conclusions all different from each other (the lieutenant, the judge and the private detective, Inspector of Police, the prosecutor) and that, this novel has a point of contact with the Leo Bruce's masterpiece, A case for three detective, novel of 1936, after this by Herbert & Wyl: there but the one who gives the fourth solution, the real one is a policeman, Sergeant Beef, whilst here in reverse the situation, making fulfill the butler who was about to be sentenced to death, is a domestic, Gustavo Sting, which explains the arcane mystery, brilliantly, and does, in the process, becoming a role in the process of Anglo-Saxon, is never just a defense witness, but the main subject of the parties (defense and prosecution). However, the two heroes, Sergeant, and the servant of the campaign are those "good", which are much more opposed to detective referenced. In fact, in A case for three detectives, the good Sergeant Beef, expression of the investigative work is not in the limelight, the long ridicules the three imaginary solutions of Lord Simon Plimsoll, Monsieur Amer Picon, and Bishop Smith, caricatures of Lord Peter Whimsey (D. Sayers), Poirot (A.Christie), Father Brown (GKChesterton). Instead it "The house is prohibited," the Lieutenant Trench, Judge Gray, the Inspector Travis, the Deputy Attorney General, the great private detective Tom Morrow characters are cocky and mean: the first has never managed to solve a case, while believed "to have the soul of a Sherlock Holmes" and, although to do so, formulates his allegations proved unfounded then the Marquis, the second, young and active, but with "a spirit of contradiction pushed to the extreme" does not hesitate to ridicule and discredit the work of the first, releasing the Marquis and accusing Charles Merriam, the third, pinning their suspicions on the lame, Tonio, the fourth of Bennard, because it must stand as a solver of all, contemptuous of the thesis of the policeman, the fifth, just to pocket the prize promised by cousins ousted from the butcher will (other characters mean and greedy, beautifully sketched in their inconsistency social and even able to condemn an innocent man to pocket the inheritance, and fight among themselves because the cousin still more greedy brother would not want to recognize even the ten percent at the private eye), does not hesitate to accuse the butler, in alliance with the judge incompetent, just to get him condemned to death.
This characterization is a very popular data distinctive of this work: it is as if the novel was conceived as a re-evaluation of the populace, a sort of revenge of the subjects usually not considered in the literature Yellow: the first of this novel had never as a servant, who usually has in the Golden Age detective novels a marginal role (except for butlers and housekeepers), could rival even to debunk the claims of a lieutenant, a police inspector, a judge, a prosecutor and a famous private detective. A major role that rivals and surpasses even the great role of Sergeant Beef. So Herbert & Wyl subvert the rules of customary Crime Novel and create a small jewel.
Moreover, the presence of a crowd of people belonging to the people and enriched the bourgeoisie, which also belongs to a marquis fallen, demonstrates the habit of never calmed French, daughter of the revolution of 1789, to oppose the rise of the aristocracy and upper classes , which instead are typical subjects of the novels of Anglo-Saxon (the aristocracy in America is replaced by the big bankers, businessmen, the entrepreneurial middle class) is no accident that the Marquis Guyeres is a crook, a scoundrel short Then little by little began to live an honest man, however, experiencing a condition of subordination that clashes with its noble origins. So, deep down, we see in the novel is also a hidden motive is social.
And the incongruity of the situations that make the crime "impossible" is explained with great subtlety, revealing many different interests and so many secrets unconfessed explained that once they rise Gustavo Sting detective leading is no accident that three procedural subjects, in ' courtroom, the (National) President of the Court of Appeals, the (city) Deputy Attorney General, the (city) Parker's defense attorney, recognized the greatness of a servant (another citizen of the French Republic founded on the eternal values of Liberte, Egalite, Fraternity), much detective race than they have been demonstrated. What is surprising is the reasoning behind the explanation, simple but incisive: the mysterious visitor who can be and how it could vanish. I must admit that surprised me. I have read all the major Locked Rooms and shut the other hand I realize that there are still many that can be a pleasure for the intellect.
Ah, the good novels of the past ...

Pietro De Palma

Monday, February 27, 2012

Howard Browne : Thin Air, 1953


Howard Browne, one could say that it is today, a beautiful stranger. Born in Omaha (some say in 1907, others 1908), until 1939 the year when he began to write stories so-called pulp, he makes several thousand jobs. He is an author born: it is quick to note in that particular world, and for several years will be editor in chief of leading magazines like Amazing Stories and Fantastic Adventure. From 1957 he began his collaboration with the golden world of celluloid, signing the screenplays for 4 films only  but also many successful television series including Mission Impossible, The Lieutenant Columbo, The Fugitive, Mannix, Perry Mason.

In the field of fiction is signed with the pseudonym of John Evans, the great novels of the series Halo 3 (Halo in Blood, 1946; Halo for Satan, 1948; Halo in Brass, 1949), creating Paul Pine, and even If You Have Tears (1947 ), in which a murder is committed by a banker in order to collect insurance money, and The Taste of Ashes, 1957, and, in 1985, the fifth and last, Paper Gun. As with its original name, he signatures Thin Air, 1953.

The Mysteries published under the pseudonym of John Evans and Howard Browne also are important for different reasons: they are direct and go to the heart, like the novels of James Cain, and have a clear derivation from Raymond Chandler. In fact, John Evans, in his case, is another detective character created by Chandler in his narrative of 1941, "No Crime in the Mountains", then served as the basis for the novel "The Lady in the Lake", and later repeated by Howard Browne. Not only: one of many pseudonyms used by Browne to write novels and short stories and detective stories and pulp fiction, is Lawrence Chandler.

Furthermore Browne was a remarkably inventive and eclectic author: Halo in Blood opens with a strange funeral, in which twelve prelates by twelve different orders participate in a burial, but then the case is complicated beyond belief, and the second novel in the Halo, Halo for Satan, concerns a case of an autograph of Jesus around which ripen several murders, plot that anticipates a range of incredibly esoteric thriller last generation, and Halo in Brass, speaks about lesbianism.

According to many, the best novel written by Browne, would be the very last, The Taste of Ashes, a novel raw, in which one finds this time Pine grappling once again with the clash with the police in a town, and ultimately against an entire country. It 'a novel with a rate slower than the others, because the saddest and best characterized in the same: there is a man that was not what he thought his wife, a wife who knew too much and a little girl who has a central function: In fact, the novel is about pedophilia, and therein lies the historic significance of Browne.
However, Browne revealed in interviews that the novel of his that he liked more and more,  just seems were Thin Air.

The novel opens with a woman who disappears: it seems even a Locked Room, but if there was not a particularly recently. A Locked Room can truly be considered closed if the volatilization of the murderer or the victim is incomprehensible, and doors, windows, shutters, chimneys, are undeniably closed, bolted or better. In this case however, while her husband was dozing after a long journey by car from the places of resort stays in the car with the three year old daughter, his wife, Leona, opens the door .. and disappears. But this can be understood later, after her husband closed the door behind him, put the baby to bed and he took a shower. Called his wife several times without being answered, exits, and you realize that what seemed a strange thing to say the least (a disappearance from a brothel) in reality it is not because the door that he remembered having closed even barred and carried to the back of the house, he was no longer. Instead, it was just closed. Ergo, the wife is gone. Why? Why should a woman wait a long time if you really wanted to leave her husband and daughter and do so much theater? Gradually, however, Ames Coryell, makes it clear that it isn’t certainly gone about, and which is connected to the disappearance of his wife's attempted murder of his neighbor who was found dying with head smashed into a bush. From here a tight investigation that will lead our protagonist to be even suspected of attempted murder (towards the close) and femicide, which then will turn into an accusation of double murder, before reaching the final rush and the solution. This is, however, comes through a series of moves, which more than suggest a Hardboiled itself, reminiscent of a novel that has its roots in classical detection: the splitting of a fetish, an overcoat, Ames will lead to re-evaluate the testimony of a girl of 3 years, although at first you do not really think is considering in a manner consistent, in fact, says the purest truth.

It should however be noted that, as I stressed in my speech elsewhere, the novel while being extremely smooth, confident manner and well written with some humor over the lines, has a small leak that is explained by the continuation of the story: do not understand it because only Ames should be accused of double murder (a real one and the other suggested) and not your neighbor's wife, when the motive is jealousy. If you really Ames, driven by jealousy for a hypothetical relationship between his wife and neighbor, had designed to kill them both, you do not understand why the wife of his neighbor, assuming the affair, should not have to be taken into consideration as the probable murderer . Certainly this hypothesis against Ames, along with his search for his wife, becomes a thorn hot because he is not exculpatory and roasted finish on the chair.

It should be said, however, I notice some interesting things: first, the importance of advertising agencies, and as a time, one of which is leading the protagonist, is used to enable a search that is not the market, though. Through the ether, the object of advertising that the listener becomes the subject and it will be one of them to give the track to resolve the situation.

Not only. I also note another detail very interesting: the figure of the policeman is detestable. Now this is a leit-motif in the novels of Browne: in fact those of the Halo series often takes around their own authorities, a sign of personal antipathy to everything that was by its nature, authoritative: the policeman, in Halo in Blood and the priest in Halo in Satan, and the banker If You Have Tears. In addition, another special ties this novel to other novels, and not just the atmosphere at the end: the name of the female protagonist, his wife Leona is disappearing. And in Halo in Blood, his first novel, Leona is the name of the daughter of tycoon John Sandmark.

Pietro De Palma


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ngaio Marsh : Death at the Dolphin, 1966

Ngaio Marsh, New Zealand, was a writer of great talent and great taste, very refined in her writing, which has favored the atmosphere in his novels, paintings and even more dramatic, reflecting the fact that she herself for most of his life is was a popular theater, having studied painting before, and that only over time that the advancing police wrote, nevertheless, from 1934 with A Man ​​Lay Dead to 1982 with Light Thickens, presented to the press 32 novels, some of which deal with issues related to the digital theatrical or artistic (painting). Among the first is included in the novel object, which is a theater and a performance of Shakespeare (not forgetting that many of the productions directed by Ngaio Marsh were dramas or comedies of Shakespeare), and by 1967 was a finalist dell'Edgar Allan Poe Award (Edgar Award that year was won by The King of the Rainy Country by Nicolas Feeling).
In Death at the Dolphin she talks about theater and Shakespeare, but the crime does not arrive soon, but after a 'elaborate introduction which, unlike other novels, is not so much to expose the reader to a situation of hatred or envy or jealousy can lead to a murder, because you have to create a condition for the crime.
Peregrine Jay, playwright and theater director, has a dream: to save from oblivion and destruction completes “The Delfin”, a theater that liberty is decaying, abandoned and ruined by time and neglect. One day he goes there, and after admiring the forms, the sculptures, the line of stalls and boxes, and having breathed the air, now dusty, a great theater of the time, filled by a crowd of fans at one time, whereas now it is from spiders and mice, wanting to try the stage, where they were exhibited important actors, not aware of a big hole, caused by a bomb dropped by a German plane, now filled with putrid water, and falls into it, no possibility of escape, with the real prospect of drowning, and no one can know that he is there desperately trying not to die in that water cold and smelly. Just when his hopes were dashed and that's where you're almost numb to surrender their will to the embrace of death, a hand grabs him and takes him to safety: it is the hand of Vassily Conducis, a fabulous greek billionaire, owner of the theater , who feels guilty for what happened to Jay. The fact is that, taken home and there Conducis after having bathed and changed.
 and refreshed, he shows him something extremely rare: a glove that is believed to have belonged to the dead son of William Shakespeare, which has come into possession, and tells the history tied to it. Jay, made quite tipsy by the punch that son were given to keep warm after the chill of the adventure drama begins to fantasize, and during an impassioned tirade, infects Conducis with his dreams, to revive the Delfin tying him to a play based right on the history of that glove. The fact is that Conducis, when he is back on the ground of reality, offers a rare and unique opportunity: to finance the reconstruction of the theater's expense, provided that you represent Jay, with a suitable company, an event linked to the glove Shakespeare. And in return, the publicity that will be created in order to revive the theater, will also serve to enhance the taste of the sale to foreign collectors glove: The glove after appropriate expertise, aiming to confirm the authenticity of at least the time of creation, will be stored in a safe connected to security systems, inside the theater.
Meanwhile, Jay has set up the show based on a text that he himself has invented, but the actors who form the company will do anything to complicate his task: the whims of the leading actress
of Gertrude Bracey annoyed and want to repeat parts up to perfection by Marcus Knight, continuous banter between Hartly Grove, and patriotic vindication of the heirloom of the glove to England by the designer and friend of Peregrine, Jeremy Jones, the rehearsal to be go on set. But soon, especially Marcus and Hartly arrive at loggerheads over each other's addresses: one night someone steals the glove and at the same time kills the guard and tries to kill the younger actor's company, who normally plays the young son of Shakespeare, the which is given to the glove and then dies: the beauty is that in reality the guy is likely to departing hurriedly, falling (or stumbled accidentally launched after a struggle with the murderess) by a balustrade. The strange thing is that the guard was wearing a coat in brown boxes that had given their Hartly: Then doubt creeps in that someone has killed the guardian having mistaken for Hartly Grove.
At this point enters Sir Roderick Alleyn, Steward of Scotland Yard, which will investigate in an environment where the players often continue to act even in the reality of everyday life, explore even the smallest details, and to get to the end ' identification of the murderer, who will once again less likely to be one of the players, or designer? Or maybe it will be the same or Conducis Constantia Guzman American collector in disguise?
After a hunt mice, with numerous plot twists, the identification of the culprit will come under a tidbit, that escapes the attention but that has a fundamental value for the final solution, although the motive will be revealed at the end and will also be a surprise.
What you notice immediately, reading the novel, the atmosphere is that play is not fake, was not invented by those unfamiliar with that world, but has been built based on many personal experiences: the reproaches, the disagreements, rivalries, envy, jealousy between actors are rendered with great skill, from those who probably lived them every day. Moreover, the attachment to that world has become so intense: you feel the love for the theater, along with a pleasure that can be understood by those who live a passion for something, when Peregrine is in the theater in ruins and imagine how that theater would have to be seen through the eyes of the mind the antlers, the stage, the gallery, corridors, paintings, wooden sculptures, marbles, it's as if they were seeing at that moment Ngaio, because the theater director Jay Peregrine is Ngaio Marsh theater director. Only Ngaio is also a writer, and so were well assured that Peregrine will not be the murderer, and that in the end, next to Roderick Alleyn, the character will be more vivid and more sympathetic, among all those submitted.
That 's what makes the novel a very satisfying read and not at all boring.
Furthermore writer Ngaio Marsh confirmed racial and refined taste in the construction of the plot, indeed rather complex: it is not easy to identify the thread of Ariadne in this labyrinth of hatred and lies. As he rattles off the investigation, there will be revelations which may have their own importance as well as they can not have it, or may even confuse the issue, or they can order them. Just frame the decisive indicator, among many provided, and you will have the solution: just will not be at all easy to overcome Ngaio Marsh as sharpness!
Say no more because this is a novel to read and enjoy. And keep in mind that it is a novel of 1966, that is when the Marsh was old 71 years. But the surprise is that everything is so fresh and immediate, even if veiled by a melancholy yearning.
A rediscovery.

Pietro De Palma

Monday, February 20, 2012

Peter Curtis (Norah Lofts) : Dead March in Three Keys, 1940

Peter Curtis was the name that Norah Lofts, born Robinson (writer very popular in England until the seventies, and author of more than fifty works more like a historical narrative) chose for her mystery stories : it was thought that so aficionados readers of his most romantic, not remain shocked by the plot of a murder. So a female writer in some way close to Georgette Heyer, also a female writer of historical fiction and love, and mystery, but that she had abandoned her more famous name.
In fact in the plots, expressed under the pseudonym of Peter Curtis, the Lofts of characters introduced stylistically very close to his best known works: for example, the great concern for the plight of the poorest in society, unable to change them, and stories of love .
Dead March in Three Keys, 1940, was the first of four novels, which obtained considerable success in the public enough to be transposed in movies: eg. You're Best Alone was transposed in the movie Guilt is My Shadow (1950) and The Devil's Own (also known as The Little Wax Doll and Catch As Catch Can) was the basis of the screenplay of The Witches, the 1966 film starring Joan Fontaine .
What is the plot of Dead March in Three Keys?
Heloise is a beautiful girl, lived almost always protected by her nanny, Emilia. She has to be pretty rich, and has a cousin that looks like a drop of water, and is just a little 'more' in the flesh " her. Antonia (the name of her cousin) differently from Heloise has few resources, but many suitors. Among these Couwen Richard, a scion who has squandered his fortune and luck in the ancient, remains just an old villa. Between Richard and Antonia born explosive passion, and the two become lovers. But the two lovers understand that without the money they don’t go on, Richard designed a plan to ensnare,  on suggestion of Antonia, the rich cousin Heloise, while the same Antonia accepts the court of Joshua Meekin, a fifty-five rich jew . The two, however, succeed, in spite of their spouses, to get rid of the afternoon hours of fiery passion and live.
One day, the Wall Street crisis of 1929 led to ruin also Joshua that died from a stroke when he discovers he has lost his fortune, and the poor Antonia finds herself with a few furs and jewels, but without a house, for which begins to look for work.
Richard , who has since become a father, but whose relations with Heloise have increasingly cracked, thus finds its way to take her home and the poor Heloise, not suspecting anything of the affair of the two (but I suspect Emma, his nanny), is very happy to host it. One fine day, indeed a beautiful night, a commotion disturbs the quiet of the house: Diana, the daughter of two, is ill and Emma Plume cries in the night. Richard Curwen, who put on the excuse of insomnia to be more free from the control of his wife, asleep in another room, and then going every night of room Antonia, do not think there to pretend, and instead of going out the back door, climbing through the attic and back down the side of his room, opens the door to the room of Antonia, face to face with Emma and his wife. In short, the affair is discovered, and Antonia has to go
Antonia looks for other employment and finds her in the kind of board where she finds aristocratic several lovers. The guesthouse is situated a short distance from the villa of Heloise and Richard, and thus Richard and Antonia succeed in hotel rooms to steal the afternoon, each other's arms. But things get worse between Richard and his wife when Antonia should go away: Heloise falls into deep crisis nerve, Richard can not resist the remoteness of Antonia, and this is far away. At this point Richard conceived the plan of femicide, rather charming, which ends beautifully for him. But when the two lovers are sure they can live together enjoying the money Heloise, Emma can not see clearly and decides to investigate: Riccardo she will get a conviction.
A work of 1940, Dead March in Three Keys is a thriller, with a high voltage, narrated in first person, with a material that changes the perspective of the narrative, as the chapters, there are real parts. The author calls them, however, "movements". There are 5. And 'as if it were, then, a suite: a suite of murder, in 5 movements, of which the first three form a "death march in three days": the first time is given to first-person narrative of Emma, ​​who is fired at the end of summer, and his figure assumed by a governess Daffield Myra, taken care of Diana and the second is given to the narration of Richard narrating the background to the drama and how he came to premeditate a femicide; the third to Antonia, which lends herself to satisfy Richard, but who she is unaware of the proposed murder of his cousin, who realizes during her narration, without her ever knowing how it is done: in fact, apparently died of a Heloise stroke. However, caused by what? She did not know, but in the meantime enjoy the money of the victim with him, mistaking herself Eloisa to be dead without  that Richard was the cause of death.
The other two movements are subsequent to the death: the fourth is again entrusted to the voice of Emma, ​​who can not see clearly, and is keen to avenge the death of Eloise, while the fifth, the final movement, culminating with the voice of sentenced, waiting for the next hanging in the confession of what happened and who sentenced him.
Richard is presented as a victim of fate, in fact, despite his plan is perfect, he is not charged on the basis of the discovery of the weapon and the unveiling of his whole plan (very clever and subtle even for psychological acuity), but on based on a false charge that accuses him of having poisoned his wife with progressively morphaline, a derivative of morphine, used as a narcotic, which, paradoxically, he knows nothing: his wife had stuffed this tranquilizer to keep sleeping, she could no longer there, imagining that her husband, who had married for money, continues to betray his cousin.
As seen, the plot of the novel is based on the story of a premeditated femicide, in a great love story: the story of passionate love of Richard and Antonia, disrupts the lives of other couples: Richard and Eloise, Antonia and her occasional lovers. What remains, until the end, is a great passionate love: a story of passion and death.
Writing well, I could already tell that I reveal who the murderer: it is true, but the rest is history that suggests only a straight run. In fact we are dealing with a classic mystery, which is necessary to discover the murderer from a shortlist of suspects, but before a thriller, where murder if the plan is known and also the future murderer, the only unknown is represented by its detection and conviction.
Cleverly written, with a style very fluid and subtle psychological,  novel of Lofts traps the reader into a growing tension, surprise, also, some very explicit expressions: Antonia turns to Richard and saying that it is a miracle of intelligence, however, accepts which is "a superb lover." This in the '40s. And moreover in a novel written by a woman, who apparently was not afraid to express it directly, as she usually wrote novels that spoke of loves and passions, and then turned to a very specific audience: Norah Lofts, born Robinson , was already known to the British public for a multitude of historical novels, many have become best sellers.
In a sense we could speak of an inverted half-story. In fact the first movement is linked, completing the fourth, both narrated in person by Emma Plume, for murder done. This could be a story inverted. But that is not at all: in fact, that we might talk about "fully" inverted story, the offender would be necessary, as the novel tends to only one conclusion, had already acquired and condemned, but not here it’s yet. In other words, the inverted story that can be said has been made with a flashback of the plot, the first-person narrative of Richard and Antonia, that by the two protagonists negative, ends where it begins the Revenge of Emma, ​​who wants to do justice;  and it ends in the story of Richard, which continues the inverted story ending it with the inevitability of fate announced.

Pietro De Palma

Friday, February 17, 2012

V.C. Clinton-Baddeley : To Study a Long Silence, 1972

He was an actor, writer, screenwriter and mystery novelist. Who? V.C.Clinton-Baddeley.
Born in 1900 in Devon, England, the author, giving heed to what we read in "Revised Crime Fiction IV," by J. Allen Hubin, originally named V (ictor Vaughan Reynolds Geraint) C (linton) Clinton-Baddeley, then reduced VCClinton-Baddeley, she earned a doctorate in history and was a drafter of the modern history section of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, first to become the author of operettas, pantomimes, plays and even television work: among these, one in which he worked as a writer and actor was “The Billiard Room Mystery”.
Author polite, expert in art and theater, chose to set his detective novels - he wrote five in all - in the world who knew very well. This is similar to other mystery writers much more known about him, such as Edmund Crispin or Ngaio Marsh, to exploit the best-known work in order to create the conditions and scenarios best suited for fictional works. Her recurring character, even if on purpose, is a university professor and expert on theater enthusiast, Dr. RV Davie, who delights in doing the detective, who stumbles and, again by chance, in the strange events culminating in murder.
Baddeley is an author, even if sometimes spectacular, is not pleased, preferring silence to the clamor: but his creations are always effective and the result of British atmosphere. Also a writer, although traditionally associated with classical detection, variegate loves the texture of his novels, which have almost never static characterizations, quite the contrary: most often Dr. Davie participates in festivals, festivals of classical music, theater . However, in my opinion, Clinton Baddeley, among the writers of the last half of the twentieth century, is one of those who have learned most of the great British tradition of mystery, creating a new detective, and as the Belgian detective Poirot, the old spinster Miss Marple, Miss Silver and former teacher, can make sense of the more obscure things, just by talking with the people concerned and not, in scenarios criminal citizens: all will be won by his unassuming air, peaceful and good-natured, and they trust that they would never admit to know if the question had been asked by a police officer.
Clinton Baddeley betrays in all her novels, the desire to talk about art and history: the digressions and the possibility of dialogue on issues of crime is lost, are numerous, nevertheless, under no circumstances be tempted to comment that it complicate the novel, because it all flows as if the crime was nothing more than an event which is part of a typical day. In fact, if in other novels by other writers, when the crime occurs, the atmosphere changes, and changes the pace and sequence of events, like a trauma that would change the situation without exception that instead would flow otherwise, in the novels of Clinton Baddeley everything continues as if nothing had happened: the city life continues, and even the life of Dr. Davie continues to flow as usual, and even the afternoon nap is not disturbed.
We witness that a different and interesting way of being in a detective novel: when normally the most famous British novels, when the crime occurs, it changes the atmosphere and the photographic objective of the novelist, rather than take a wide-angle as the surrounding reality of which is also one in which the crime exists (and in particular which can also be a negligible), immediately performs a zooming and examines particularly the environment and the criminal subject that in it are agitated and then detaches the scene, in scenarios Baddeley however, even at the crime occurred, everything continues to run as if nothing new (or almost) had occurred: whether it be a work of theater of the Commedia dell'Arte, as in "To Study in Long Silence ", or that it is immersed in the King's Festival Lacy, as in" Only a Matter of Time ".
Among his novels one that I particularly liked  was "To Study a Long Silence", published posthumously in 1972 by Gollancz
Nice is the title, which while not complying with the original, fits into the theme of the novel with a double meaning: Applause because the crime was conceived almost as a work of art, but also applause because the crime took place in a theater before the public.
Already, before the public. This recalls other great novels, such as "Death of Jezebel" by Christianna Brand, and also "The Roman Hat Mystery" by Ellery Queen in which the eyes of the public, during a theatrical performance is a crime. However, the scenarios, as we said before, are not the same: the atmosphere, the more rarefied and dramatic of Brand and Ellery Queen, it must be said that genuine masterpieces are 2, here we are, but the crime and there is spectacular during a play, Pantaloon, Harlequin and Columbine, Captain Spaventa and Pedrolino, and many other secondary characters, moving, playing roles in a towel, not a text based, but like many others, which causes the laughter of the spectators at some point in the play, Captain Spaventa tries in every way to kill Pantaloon, without success, but pants is death for a disastrous fall in a wheelbarrow, caused by the movement of the range of his wife and the clown brings his body into a wheelbarrow, among the jokes and laughter: no one rather suspects that the actor who plays Pantalone is really dead, murdered.
As you can see the scenic Baddeley invention is remarkable, and betrays his verve as a writer of theater. Unlike the novel of Christianna Brand here we aren’t dealing with a Locked Room, just because a door, through which he could leave the stage, the murderer, instead of being tightly closed, it’s just closed, and so it was just opening at all times. Linking to murder the disappearance of a ring frame, it's a trivial matter to Dr. Davie, after a second murder will give a sudden snap at each other. However, the killing is not stopped, because he dies in car accident, torn between the twisted metal and glass fragments, during his escape in a car trailed by police cars.
The resolution of the case concludes the novel and explains the sequence of events and how the first murder, which is the soul of the novel, could have been accomplished in so little time and why pants, among all the actors was the only not present to receive the applause.
- "Simple" - some would say - "he was dead."
No. Not so simple. In fact, not at all simple. I can say, without revealing anything substantial, that here the mystery is in some ways opposed to the "Evil Under the Sun", Christie's: to reveal, will be a surprise to readers of this fine novel, which is the last in order of time to have been published, of the five mystery novels Clinton Baddeley.
Thus, we could easily imagine how the sleep of Dr. Davie that the last line of the novel is overcome by sleep, can be seen as a metaphor for the novelist who, shortly thereafter, should have won by the rest .. eternally, dying in 1970.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Christianna Brand : Death of Jezebel, 1948

Born in 1907 and died in 1988, she was called Mary Christianna Lewis. Before becoming a full capacity to genre fiction, best known as the Lewis Christianna Brand, she held many different jobs: shop assistant, dancer, model and housekeeper, but he was not English, though belonging to the British Commonwealth: she was born in Malaysia and for many years lived in India. The daughter of a soldier, Christianna, engaged with the job contract, when she wrote his first novel Death in High Heels, in 1941, appeared in this thriller as his detective Inspector Charlesworth, which will appear in another novel almost forty years after 1979: The Rose in Darkness. However it was with the Inspector Cockrill, the brand hit it, and in fact, not only in his debut novel, Heads You Lose, again in 1941, Cockrill appeared in other novels, some of them masterpieces: Green for Danger (1944), that many people consider his finest novel, Death of Jezebel (1948), Tour de Force (1955). C.Brand also wrote other novels of the detective genre, introducing the Inspector Chucky, for example, Cat and Mouse (1950). Christianna Brand also wrote novels for children (those with Tata Matilda) who had considerable success.
First is one of those novels whose main event is happening under the eyes of all, in this case an audience, and novels of the genre, there is something a large number, for example: The American Gun Mystery (rodeo) by Ellery Queen, Eighty Million Eyes (on television) by Ed McBain,
Three Act Tragedy (a party) by Agatha Christie, "First Night Murder" (in theater) by F.G.Parke.
In the first part, the novel begins with an upheaval that leaves completely stunned. In fact, the part that the mystery itself was more dedicated to the presentation of the characters, their intentions, and poison of envy, jealousy, malice, premeditation or any reason for the manifestation of a criminal act, and who had a certain length, here is drastically reduced. And very often in the novels more typically British, for example those by Georgette Heyer, spend some time before they come to murder, or at least several pages. But in this novel, within just two pages, it tells of a doomed love and as a young man, deceived, we were able to kill with throwing his car into a wall, and like someone, then he vowed to avenge , killing those who were found guilty of his death. All in two pages: no loss of time, no ad hoc creation of atmosphere, but in no time at all, you get to the core: in a theater, a carousel horse has to be done, in costume: knights wearing armor and helmets of horses harnessed thereto, and a representation of courtly love, with the inevitable lady who should protrude from the balcony.
The fact is that the very lady is the witch who was behind the suicide is called Isabel, but everyone calls Jezebel, the brand name that uses surely referring to the biblical Jezebel, queen damned, who died torn by his dogs. And like the biblical Jezebel (queen Canaanite wife of King Ahab, who brought the worship of the Phoenician god Baal in Israel and found himself face it, the Prophet Elijah), or as the Jezebel of Revelation, that induces false prophetess and convinces many to commit adultery, this hateful woman, who keeps in check those around and try to make the most profit, end up doing the ending that everyone wants him to do, because she was behind the suicide of Johnny.

This is as if Christianna Brand takes the part of the murderer, and in some sense, because the victim is a hateful person who is designated as the cause of a suicide,it is as if every reader participated in the story, almost cheering because the killer could do it this time to escape . Moreover, in some cases, the detective is almost sorry he had to shut down the murderess, as in "When in Rome" by Ngaio Marsh. However, this reader's partisanship for the murder of a "witch", ends when the murderer in order to accomplish the murder, premeditates murder of an innocent person, that only for the avenging angel deserves to die , but in reality about Johnny Wise’s suicide has notbeen a big deal. He was a puppet in the hands and plans of Isabel-Jezebel.
But this murder, which turns out later than that of Isabel, which occurred in the theater, under the eyes of all, in a hypnotic Locked Room, was necessary because at some time riding the carousel, you might think that a knight was certainly on a particular horse, and instead it was elsewhere, to kill Isabel.

If I speak of texture and superb plot, here it is because Christianna Brand manages to make a convincing illusionistic virtuosity that really under the helmet, a certain person had seen the eyes, and you really do get on that horse there was a knight, White Knight. What then is found that may have been the Red Knight to strangle the beautiful Isabel-Jezebel, and that as many as four different people swear they each, the same Knight, this is another trick by which the brand cleverly shuffles the cards, and throws the poor reader to the lions, especially since at first to demonstrate that things can not be left in a certain way, and that the White Knight on the horse actually exist,  is Cockrill. How then can this be explained, is the basis of one of the most memorable novels I've read in recent years, and only when you read the explanation, you can understand the cruelty of the murderer and his lucid madness: how to fit two facts absolutely impossible (on a horse could not be a knight, and at the same time it was proven that under the helmet had been seen two blue eyes), will be the centerpiece of this extraordinary puzzle: only then it will be understood as it will be found as the second crime to be narrated actually preceded chronologically the first, the murder of Isabel-Jezebel, and not only with regard to time, but also to the very intent of the murder of Isabel. In fact, without being killed Earl Anderson, could not be organized the second murder (which is the first, that of Isabel-Jezebel): his decapitation was necessary. Because blue-eyed inside the helmet are his, of his severed head.
This fact of beheading the victims is not commonplace in the good years of Mystery: you almost always tended to avoid blood (It Walks By Night of Carr is a tribute to the French literature). So I think we can say that beheading is functional to the story. Apart from that, then the brand new novel, uses the same reason, and will be the legacy of ancient customs of the islands of Borneo, where she had lived as a young man (Headhunters of Borneo), I think it's a detail that binds Christianna Brand to Ellery Queen (The Egyptian Cross Mystery), where even there the decapitation of the victim is functional to plot of the novel. However compared to that novel, the reversal by Brand: there were headless bodies having a function (to recall the letter T) here is to have her head (eyes and then justify it under the armor there was indeed a person).
And when the murderess is revealed to be the avenger deaf to all cries of pity, at that time will be the twist: if at first the murderer could somehow be excused, having taken away a witch (but also the murder of Cain can never be excused?), now becomes a self-confessed by the culprit to justice. Because he has killed an innocent and because this must be for justice impartially. However, the final scene sees the murderer being led handcuffed off, those who attend know that he will be hung by the neck until he be dead, but the nice thing is that he, the murderer, knows but does not care about because he still has revenge.

P. De Palma