Murder in the Bath

I am disappoint.   Murder in the Bath, bought mainly because it had Bath in the title and could be a link in my mystery chain, but I was still hoping for a good read, and I didn’t get it.    Published in 2009 (or 2004 according to Wikipedia),  written by Michael Mallory and starring Amelia Watson, Dr. Watson’s second wife in the manner of so many detective novels these days, having a real or fictional famous person as the detective.   I tend to assume these won’t be great, probably a bias on my part, owing to the fact they didn’t have to think up a detective.   But then this one is a little different as apparently he made her up?   I haven’t finished the Holmes stories yet, but I gather she wasn’t created or even mentioned by Doyle.   Not sure if I have this right.  It’s not very important.

There are things I like about this book although it all seems a bit cliché.   Or more than a bit.   Amelia, the second Mrs. Watson, is stubborn, feisty, headstrong, and heads off to Bath to solve a murder the minute her husband’s back is turned.  She takes along a maid called Missy, which seems unlikely enough, but whom she keeps calling ‘dear,’ which seems even less likely.   She tries to make Missy read Northanger Abbey to improve her.   She’s a former governess.   It is, in fact, one of her former charges that she is off to see in Bath and, she hopes, help with a mysterious murder the papers all say was committed by the former pupil’s husband.   The suspect is a would-be archaeologist who has been digging up relics in the garden of the deceased instead of building a patio.   The deceased didn’t mind this, but wanted to keep all the trinkets for himself.   Standish, the suspect/husband of Bella, snuck one out of the dig site — a medallion of Cam, an ancient Celtic fish god.   Bella is trapped in the house by a pack of newspaper hounds, so at one point Amelia brings her maid along and sneaks Bella out in the guise of the maid.   Yeah, right, no one notices.    Nor does the cop on duty notice she’s not there when he goes in the house to spot a mysterious man in the back that Amelia invents because she can’t figure out how to steal a medallion without this foofaraw.   Nor does anyone notice when she is sneaked back in.    That’s because everyone needs to be exceptionally stupid in order to make Amelia look smart, which is a feat, because Amelia isn’t bright.   Handed a perfectly obvious clue, she fails to notice until the person involved becomes the second corpse.   This could have cleared our prime suspect if only he hadn’t escaped from jail apparently by running fast and knocking over all the policemen.

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Amelia meets a mysterious Lord of dubious reputation and bicycles off into the middle of nowhere to find a mysterious fake abbey and charm the Lordship who doesn’t like anyone until they’re old pals.  It’s kind of fun.   And if you’re not overly picky, you’ll probably enjoy their religious discussion and his racketing around the country in one of those new fangled automobiles.   There’s a tiresome, obnoxious police detective, an Irish hotel keeper and very few suspects.  Still, I did not guess correctly.  I guessed the same as Amelia, but some time before her,   I cannot say it’s fairly clued as I can’t think of any clues pointing to the real murderer.

 

{Spoilers ahead:  There’s a clue in the form of a button clenched in the hand of the second victim.  We are supposed to believe this button was pulled off the murderer in the struggle, but Amelia doesn’t believe it.  What I find impossible to believe is that you could put a button into the fist of a fresh corpse and have the corpse obligingly clench it.  I admit rigor would set in and if you could somehow secure the hand in a fist until it did, then you might get your clenched button, but I really can’t believe you could just form a fist with a dead hand and it would stay.  Also as far as I can tell, knowing who the murderer is relies entirely on being able to see the murderer and understand the relationship of the murderer and another character to figure it out.  A cheat. /End spoilers]

So, can’t say I recommend it, sadly.   I definitely prefer the original stories where no screamingly obvious clues get past the detective and the police might not be highly respected, but they aren’t constantly hollering idiots.  Also, Mallory is desperately in need of a proof reader.   Remember:   spellcheck is not enough!   My favorite typo:

just in time to see Missy descending the stairs, suitcase in head.

This book has been out over 7 years.   Someone should fix things like this.

This murder in the Bath at Bath was the next in the chain after the Body in the Bath, the Chupplejeep mystery set in Goa.

 

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The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

I have been trying to follow Noonlight Reads chronological Sherlock Holmes challenge this year and was doing pretty well at first, but have slowed down dramatically.   I am through July, skipped The Hound of the Baskervilles and have read a few stories after that.   This meant that I recently completed all the stories in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, although it also means I’m not sure I can rate The Adventures as a book, since it was all mixed in with the Memoirs.   I am enjoying the Holmes stories and hope to keep going, but who knows whether I will or not?   Hitting December means that I won’t manage it this year.  I’ve got most of 3 books of stories left and while I could probably do that if that’s all I do, I don’t think I want to read them in such a forced rapid way just to have them done in 2017.  I am enjoying them and see no real reason to rush it.

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I only have one more story in the Memoirs and then I think I may switch to reading them in the order published rather than chronological.   Much easier to do and I’m not sure the chronological reading has been of any benefit.  An interesting idea, but I’m just not seeing any real advantage to doing it this way.   I may save Hound for last.   Generally I prefer novels to short stories, though Holmes has been an exception.   Maybe it’s because you have the same two main characters, so it feels more like a novel?

I’m not sure, but I don’t think this qualifies for any challenges that my earlier Holmes reading didn’t already fulfill.  Glad I’ve finally made a big dent in these classic stories.

 

Aurora Leighdalong Finale

Late with my report again even though I finished early.   Last Sunday I finished Aurora Leigh and that was because it got interesting.   When last we left our feisty and/or bitchy poetess, she was living in Italy with Marian Erle who seems to be one of those people you always refer to by both names.   And then finally we get the hero and heroine back together and it’s pretty gripping because until the last moment you can’t be sure what either of these proud eccentrics will do.  Unlike most readalongs where I write a spoilerrific final essay and then a non-spoiled overall review, I think I’m just going to make this a non-spoilery summing up.

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Overall, I enjoyed this novel-length poem.  There are some parts which are tedious — she waxes poetic, but much of the time it’s interesting and things happen.  Aurora herself is tough to like.  She’s so full of herself from early on.  Romney’s difficult too with his troglodytic views of women, despite having pretty progressive ideas on the poor.  But then it seems as though EBB’s ideas on the poor aren’t somewhat troglodytic.   Am I reading the wrong message?  It sure seems like you should be sorry for the poor, but there’s nothing you can really do, they’re just low class and always going to be so, with maybe a one in a million exception like Marian Erle.  It very sadly smacks of upper crust folks justifying there wealth by saying God made it this way and you’ll offend him if you try to change it.  Which is a load of old cobbler’s.  The whole idea that having money or aristocratic blood makes you inherently better is an idea which deserves a much quicker death than it is receiving.

There’s a bit of Candide-ish Let your garden grow philosophy, which I can’t completely argue with, but I think it all depends on what you’re trying to do.  Lots of people have successfully helped the poor over the centuries.  Should they really not have?   I would say it was good they did and they should be admired for it.

I may try to discover a bit more about what other people thought about Aurora Leigh.   Maybe I’m maligning Mrs. Browning and her attitude.  It’s a wonderfully pro-feminist view at the outset and I was all indignant at Romney’s supercilious attitude which is not as entirely a thing of the remote past as it should be.   Think how much further forward as a society we might be if we ever acknowledged that genius and ability can be found anywhere and no one knows where or in what form it may turn up.   If we educated everybody, helped them to realize their full potential instead of sneering that some irrelevant trait makes it ‘impossible’ for them to accomplish anything.

All-in-all a very weird book and I think someday I may read it again.  Thanks again to Alice and Jenny without whom it is unlikely I would have read this.   I always mean to read more poetry and Elizabeth Barrett Browning is one of those I would hope to try, but without the impetus of the readalong probably wouldn’t have happened.  It was indeed ” it was yet again really gay and a mix of genius and wtf” as Alice said, which Alice has a positive genius for picking out books that fit that description and I hope before too long, she’ll do it again.   Or Jenny who suggested it.   I’m game for pretty much whatever these ladies come up with.

Aurora Leighdalong Book VI

Finished part 3 of the readalong a couple days ago.  Luckily, we have this week off so catching up is possible.  Book 6 was much easier going as EBB stopped going on about poetry and reintroduce Marian Erle.   Aurora saw her in Paris.   With… a baby!   She loses her in the crowd, but by hanging around roaming the streets she eventually finds her again, because this is fiction and there’s no story if she doesn’t.  They walk all over Paris before deciding to go to Marian’s place.   Aurora is head over heels for Marian whom she’s seen once before in her life, I think?   Transferring her longing for Rodney onto this poor woman.   Marian tells Aurora at first that she found the baby, but then it emerges that Lady Waldo talked Marian out of marrying Rodney (which we all knew) and then sent her to France where she sewed, got raped, went out of her mind, not necessarily in that order.   Poor Marian.   Lady W is scum and Aurora is reluctant to tell Rodney his wife-to-be-or-may-be-already is evil, so she writes their mutual friend and leaves it all up to him.   Where she gets all her high-and-mightiness I’m not sure.   She’s awful blaming Marian at first for the baby and then does a 180 and offers a home to Marian and the nameless cherub.   Luckily Marian feels dead already or she’d feel a lot worse with this whiplash reaction.   They move to Italy and things seem to be going well.   Aurora gets a letter from a friend who has married someone named Kate.

This book was much easier to read as Aurora did not go on about poetry, but just revealed what happened.   There are three more books to go and here’s hoping they are full of events and not so much about how poetry is the greatest thing ever.   She’s making me think of Charlie Sheen when he thought he was the greatest thing ever.   Dude, you had a hit TV show.   That’s it.   You haven’t cured cancer.   I don’t mean poetry isn’t a great thing, because I think it is, but it’s not the only great thing and here’s hoping she allows a few of the other things into her world by the end.

Happy Thanksgiving to those in this country! And a forlorn hope for a more peaceful world!

Aurora Leigh-d-along Book 5

I was supposed to finish 5 & 6, but this book was tough going.  Almost nothing happens.  It’s a year and a half later and Aurora is in a bitchy mood — so what else is new?  Not even sure about what she went on about for 25 pages or so.  Writing a play.  Poetry.  How come he doesn’t love her.  What the hell does she want?  Finally she goes to a dinner party where she bitchily turns down a proposal of marriage, I think, and finds out Romney is going to marry Lady Whathaveyou.   She’s all out of bitch juice so Lord Howe has to shut down Lady W.  She decides to move to Florence and so sells her books.

Aurora seems to believe she’s the only person capable of love, though I’m not sure how she came to this conclusion as she seems to be in denial about Romney.  Pretty sure everything that mattered in Book 5 could have been written in about 2 pages.   What a philistine I am.   Sad.   But there it is.

Cannot find a good pic for this entry.   Maybe later.

Aurora Leighdalong II – Books 3 & 4

Spoilerrific Readalong Report

The sad thing is I finished on time, but didn’t write up my impressions yesterday so no points for me.   A small, but intrepid crew are reading Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh a poem about a young Victorian woman growing up to be a fiery poet.  She is chock full of scorn for most people including her cousin Romney who although completely belittling women poets seems otherwise a stand-up guy.   He even tried to make her independently wealthy after she turned him down in marriage, but she would have none of it.   I’m not saying she’s wrong to turn it down, but it was very nice of him to make the attempt.   He goes off to save the world and she writes poems in a garret.

Three years later she gets a visit and all her prickliness will not put off Lady Whatshername who is trying to get her help to stop Romney from marrying a poor woman.   Aurora Leigh tells Lady W to get stuffed and then goes to meet this fiancee whose name is Marion Erle.   Marion tells her sad story and Aurora welcomes her into the family as a cousin, but neglects to tell her cousin Romney to watch out for Lady W.   Does she do this because as a poetess she’s unaware of the depths to which people will sink or because she subconsciously wants to sink this marriage?   Whichever it is, the marriage is sunk.   Poor Romney is left at the alter with nothing but an incoherent message which really doesn’t explain anything.

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EBB looking as prickly as Aurora.   Wondering how much Aurora is based on EBB?   Certainly not the orphan part, but her character and having to deal with people who think women should not do anything except look pretty and make babies.   This section went much faster for me and with a lot less, huh?   She hardly waxed poetic at all, mostly it was all action.   Her descriptions of the poor are absolutely dreadful.   She’s sympathetic to Marian, but all the rest seem to be caricatures who love nothing better than hitting children and drinking.   I can’t help thinking the rich didn’t bathe all that much then either and fluoride was still a thing of the future.   Not sure if she really thought the poor were all horrible people simply incapable of being refined like those of good blood like the Leighs, or she’s painting it this way for political purposes.   It’s really hard to see the point though in

A woman screamed back — ‘I’m a tender soul,

I never banged a child at two years old

And drew blood from him, but I sobbed for it

Next moment

Is she parodying what many thought the poor were like?  I certainly hope so.  It seems pretty clear she’s parodying the rich showing them mostly quite full of themselves so let’s just assume these ghastly portraits of the poor are also parody.  Although it doesn’t read so much like parody to me as pure disgust

What an ugly crest

Of faces rose upon you everywhere

From that crammed mass! you did not usuallly

See faces like them in the open day:

They hide in cellars, not to make you mad

As Romney Leigh is — Faces! O my God,

We call those, faces? men’s and women’s… ay,

And children’s — babies, hanging like a rag

Forgotten on their mother’s neck — poor mouths,

Wiped clean of mother’s milk by mother’s blow

Before they are taught her cursing.  Faces?… phew,

We’ll call them vices, festering to despairs,

Or sorrows, petrifying to vices: not

A finger-touch of God left whole on them

Harsh realm, Miss Aurora Leigh.

 

 

 

Aurora Leigh Readalong I

[Chock full of spoilers.]   So another of Alice’s readalongs and hoping we’ll have as much fun as the previous ones.  We’ve read the first two books and I can’t tell yet.   I like some of it.   Can’t follow some of it.   It’s too early to tell, I guess.  Aurora Leigh is half-Italian, half-English.   Her mother dies when she is four and her father a few years later.  She is sent to live with an aunt in England who isn’t cruel, but cold and conventional with very set ideas on how young ladies should behave and Aurora grows up a fiercely passionate poet and a beauty.  Her cousin Romney falls in love and proposes, but she rejects him after he scorns women writing poetry.   I don’t blame her.  His speech makes me want to slap him and every man who ever superciliously said anything like

The chances are that…

You write as well… and ill… upon the whole,

As other women.  If as well, what then?

If even a little better… still, what then?

We want the Best in art now, or no art.

Only men can write poetry.   Infuriating.  Then he relents and is like okay, I still want to marry you, you can write your little poems or whatever.   And she is proud and passionately tells him where he gets off.   She’s not sorry because she knows she didn’t love him and doesn’t really think he loved her.   He may have to the extent he was capable, but who knows?

Women of a softer mood,

Surprised by men when scarcely awake to life,

Will sometimes only hear the first word, love,

And catch up with it any kind of work,

Indifferent, so that dear love go with it.

I do not blame such women, though, for love,

They pick much oakum

So, there’s definitely moments I like.  Is that enough to get me through it?  I hope so.

Phinnea's Book Blog List

Idle thoughts on books and movies. Some new, but mostly old.