Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Murder After Christmas - Rupert Latimer

It's been a busy few weeks, not helped by my old washing machine finally giving up the ghost - the last time a plumber caught sight of it he couldn't believe anything that old still worked, so it did me well. A new one is coming on Thursday. I got the old machine in 2004 with the flat - it wasn't new - which makes it one of the more significant relationships I've had in my life, John Lewis are doubtful its replacement will be as faithful or long lived. At least they were honest about it. 

That and a hundred other small jobs, plus decent progress on the out-of-season Christmas stocking I'm knitting have meant limited reading, and even when I have been reading it's been a case of dipping in and out of several books and not finishing anything. I need to do something about that as a lot of good stuff has come through the door recently.

It's a while since I finished 'Murder After Christmas' and its proper season has passed by now, but it might be a good one to have waiting for next year so here we go. It's an interesting, and almost impenetrable plot full of the most ridiculous twists and red herrings. I think this is a book you will either really enjoy or really dislike. I really enjoyed it, helped a little by reading it early enough in January for the anarchic spirit of Christmas and pantomime to still appeal. 

Pantomime is very much the spirit of the book - plenty of farce and something a bit darker underneath that kept unsettling me whilst I read, it put me in mind of Monty Python too. I found the shenanigans funny, especially an unexplained set of mince pies sewn into the upholstery of a chair - and that's probably the yardstick to go by. If that sounds intriguing you'll enjoy this book. If it doesn't, approach with caution. 

Warnings duly given, I do think this is a book worth picking up though. Latimer's humour was impossible for me to resist after the first few pages. I really enjoyed his eccentric characters, all of whom were hard to like, but even harder to hate. The things they did might not make much sense in the cold light of day or regarded with any common sense, but it was more than possible to sympathise with them, even whilst being slightly horrified. 

Rupert Latimer was a pen name for Algernon Vernon Mills who turns out to be a bit of a mystery figure in his own right. The relatively scant biographical information on him in the introduction took some serious detective work from the British Library team to uncover and reveals a not entirely happy life then an earlyish death. I'm really glad that this book at least has been rediscovered and sorry that he didn't write a good few more.  

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