Saturday, December 11, 2021

Cinderella Goes to the Morgue - Nancy Spain

I got lucky with this book. When I signed up for Kate's reprint of the year award and chose it I hadn't actually read it - it hadn't been released at that point, but I really enjoyed 'Death Goes on Skis' last year and so I took a chance. 'Cinderella Goes to the Morgue' is even better.

This may partly be because I had an idea what to expect from Nancy Spain this time, although I also think this is a more assured book than 'Death Goes on Skis' with jokes that land better, although the same chaotic energy is very much in evidence.

It's also a gift of a Christmas mystery. Miriam Birdseye and Natasha Nevkorina (ex revue star and ballerina) are in Newchester just before Christmas - we're never told why they're in the provinces and unemployed but as they're quickly swallowed into a pantomime it doesn't much matter. Natasha replaces a drunk ballerina and Miriam steps into the tights of Prince Charming when the original actress suffers a fatal accident (or is it an accident).

Pantomime is the perfect backdrop for a Nancy Spain mystery - they have the same energy, with lots of hideous characters, punning jokes, and a sense of barely restrained anarchy. As the plot unfolds the villains will get their comeuppance and the hero's set off into the sunset at the end. There are all sorts of revelations along the way, none of it is terribly serious - apart from the deaths which are touched on, but not treated, lightly. 

The best reasons to read this book though are for the slapstick elements, the set pieces, and the roller coaster fun of it. Nancy Spain is a classic comic writer rather than a classic crime writer. Her mysteries arguably don't work particularly well as mysteries; it doesn't matter - she's poking fun at the genre, but doing it with affection and in that light, there couldn't be a better combination than a murderous pantomime at Christmas. It's exactly the escapism I can enthusiastically recommend. 

The best jokes rely on timing, and the timing of this reprint is perfect, which is why I say vote for it. There might be better mysteries, and better plots in this year's set of nominations, but there won't be better jokes or a better candidate to turn into a traditional and annual read!


  1. I am glad this book turned out well for you. I have yet to read anything by Spain, so do you think this would be a good one to start with?

    1. I don't think Virago are reprinting them in order, and there are notes to explain references to earlier books, so yes, I think it's a great place to start. It'll give you a feel for Nancy Spain and be enough to tell you if you want to explore further.