Thursday, October 1, 2020

Scarweather - Anthony Rolls

 I've been trying to spend as much time as possible outside whilst I've got some countryside to roam and there are otters and seals to be spotted (there are humpback whales around the south of Shetland too, but I don't think I'll be lucky enough to see them this time - it's quite a long way to go just on the off chance, which is a lot of sitting in a car instead of being outside. It all adds up to a bit less reading than I had optimistically packed for - but there have been a couple of other bookish diversions along the way.

Meanwhile I have read 'Scarweather', I really enjoyed 'Family Matters', the other Anthony Rolls title in the BL crime classics series, so came to 'Scarweather' with high expectations. It did not disappoint. The structure of 'Scarweather' is marginally more traditional than Family Matters, but not by such a lot. 'Scarweather' is also a much funnier book. 

It opens in 1913, John Farringdale who will be our narrator is an undergraduate almost at the end of his Cambridge years. His two great friends are his cousin, Eric Foster, and an older man - Frederick Ellingham. Eric has become friends with an eminent archeologist - Professor Tolgen Reisby, and his attractive young wife Hilda. All of them go up North to take part in a dig the professor is organizing and enjoy themselves hugely, although John is worried about the closeness between his cousin and Hilda Reisby.

The next year Eric disappears in what is supposed to be a swimming accident, and with no proof that it could be otherwise, but some suspicions, John Farringdale and Frederick Ellingham carry on with their lives, swept up first by the war, and later by their respectively successful careers. They don't forget Eric though, and Ellingham in particular determines to find out what happened to him despite the passing decades.

Anthony Rolls was a pen name for Colwyn Edward Vulliamy who was a keen amateur archeologist. There's quite a bit of archeology in this book, and a lot of jokes at the expense of different types of archeologists and their arguments. It's an affectionate humour of the sort that would make me read this book again - it also helps that we always know who did it, and can guess what happened, but there are still plenty of suitably gruesome and gothic details to enjoy along the way. If the who is the only reason you keep reading, there's not much reason to read again.

Anthony Rolls is definitely one of those writers who has unjustly fallen out of sight. He's inventive, amusing, clever and thoughtful. A quick search on amazon suggests his other books are essentially unavailable - if they're anywhere near as good as 'Scarweather' and 'Family Matters' I hope they get rescued from obscurity soon. 


  1. Thanks for this review, just popped over to the British library website and discover they have 3 for 2 on fiction books - perfect timing.