Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Have His Carcase by Dorothy L. Sayers

Something of a mixed bag, this novel begins all jaunty and jolly with Vane and Wimsey trading flirtatious barbs and chasing down clues in a seaside resort town. It gets progressively more complicated as the investigation goes round in circles trying to crack a very clever set of mutually interlocking alibis until finally there is a rather dark and ambiguous conclusion without a clear resolution to the plot, even if the mystery itself is solved. There's a bout a 100 to 150 pages in the last third which is essentially a sort of Ouroboros-like display of the plot eating itself up, and some of the passages here are rather devoid of dramatic interest because Parker plays the confusion upon confusion card a little too freely here. The radical shift in focus, with Vane and Wimsey getting equal billing in the first half and Vane slowly fading into the background thereafter was rather off-putting. Worst of all, there is a factual error: Beethoven's Eroica is substituted for Beethoven's Moonlight at a concert because the 'band parts' for the latter were misplaced. In fact, there are no 'band parts' for the Moonlight, also known as the 14th Piano Sonata, and for the very good reason that it is a piece for solo piano. I find it hard to believe that an orchestra that has just played Bach and Mozart would not have realised that only one of the most famous sonatas ever has no band parts in any case, and must conclude that the error is Sayers'. This is a minor niggle of course, and the main reason this novel does not get a higher rating from me is because of the spiralling plot which rather seems to get away from Sayers at times.

Bulldog Drummond by 'Sapper'

An enjoyable adventure tale about a clearly punch-drunk soldier who yearns for more adventures after WW1, advertises for it and gets it in the form of a chance to foil a sinister conspiracy to take over the UK through a Bolshevist revolution bankrolled by foreign millionaires and masterminded by a criminal genius. The love scenes are the most inept I have ever read, the characters are a parade of stereotypes, the prose is embarrassingly bad at times and the action is fast and furious with nary a real plot twist but several cliffhanging reversals of fortune for our hero, who seems to rescue and then lose a millionaire being held captive by the villains more times than I misplace my specs on an averagely dunderheaded day. I can't in good conscience give this book more than two stars, but it's good at what it sets out to do - while away a few hours of your life with a short, sharp burst of vicarious manic action.

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