Monday, February 1, 2021

The Chimney Murder - E. M. Channon

 I put off writing about this book from Greyladies last week so that it could be part of Kaggsy and Lizzie's celebration of Indie publishers month, and because I was hoping that the copy of the latest Scribbler would be with me to talk about in the same post (also because I wanted to finish my Stoorbra socks). Unfortunately I've not seen any post for days, or much evidence of post for anybody else, so I suspect the post man might be ill, or on holiday, so the Scribbler will appear in a future post.

Trying to define what an independent publisher is turns out to be complicated, but trying to find a comprehensive list of independent publishers did at least get me thinking about what I wanted to find. When it comes down to it the advantage a small independent press has is that it reflects the passions and interests of the people who set it up. The chances are that if you like one Greyladies book you'll like a second one, and if you like two of them you can safely take a chance on anything on their list.

I haven't read the whole list, there are categories that appeal to me more than others, but every single Greyladies book I've ever bought (and they're not particularly cheap) has been a hit. Greyladies itself keeps evolving, some of the titles they reprinted at one time have fallen off the list, and they no longer seem to be bringing out new books. They've moved from Edinburgh, to Melrose, to Peebles where they're now part of Priorsford Books. I'm a little bit torn about this - I wish the whole list could have stayed in print, but I accept that isn't always possible, and there are so many people going in for reprinted 'lost' books now that it's a crowded market place.

'The Chimney Murder' is still available to order, I've had it for a while, and now seemed like an excellent time to read it. I was right. Originally published in 1929 it's funny and disturbing in almost equal measure. The Binns family live in fear of Mr Binns and his truly awful temper which makes life almost unbearable. Nothing is good enough for him, and he really does not like his neighbour Mr Marley's hens getting into his garden.

It is unfortunate then, that after loudly threatening to kill Mr Marley if his fowls wander again, Mr Marley goes missing, and (spoiler here) parts of a dismembered body are found hidden in the chimney's of the Binns house. The gruesome aspects of this are not dwelt on, so there's still plenty of room for golden age humour, but Channon keeps it balanced with the quieter domestic tragedies of unhappy marriages and homes - which here are far more devastating than murder.

The best lost books don't have to be great works of literature, the idea of the lost or rediscovered classic has, I think, become a bit tired recently. What they do need is to be both entertaining, and to have something that will always speak to the reader beyond period detail and jokes. 'The Chimney Murder' does that, Greyladies books in general do that. they're well worth hunting out whilst they're still available. 


  1. It's nice to see this book get some more attention,as I really enjoyed it when I reviewed it a while back. It hasn't got the most complex of mysteries, but the humour and character development is really good. It was interesting seeing how the central murder becomes empowering for the female characters, with the women coping with this crisis better, than their male counterparts.

    1. The revelations about the respective marriages of Mrs Binns and Mrs Marley, coupled with the strength of their friendship that make the book stand out for me. I liked the way the focus of where the real tragedy was shifted, and the ending is a bit of a peach as well.