Thursday, January 26, 2012

Why Shoot a Butler?, by Georgette Heyer



Why Shoot a Butler?
By Georgette Heyer
1933


Shall we be murdered, Frank? I thought these things didn't happen.

I have to admit that I was very reluctant to try a Georgette Heyer novel, even after I realized that she'd written a number of mysteries that seem to be rather well-respected. My only prior experience with Heyer are her romance novels, which were quite popular with my mother and grandmother and which I wouldn't have touched with the proverbial ten-foot pole.

It appears that Heyer wrote about a dozen crime novels in all. This is the second of them. As it opens barrister Frank Amberley is on his way to the family mansion when he comes across the butler from a nearby mansion, shot dead in a car and with a young woman standing in the road nearby. Well, the plot thickens, as they invariably do, and a few more stiffs pile up along the way. Amberley, a somewhat arrogant and not so likeable sort, works more or less in concert with the local police, though he obviously feels that he's in another league altogether.

Of course, it's all sorted out in end, but unless I missed some key points along the way, I'd say that this one is insufficiently clued to let even the most perceptive reader in on the secrets that are eventually revealed. Not that I'm the most perceptive reader and in fact I'm probably down at the other end of the scale when it comes to picking up on subtle details and whatnot.

My other quibble with this one, and it's something I've harped on before, is that it's just too long. While there are undoubtedly mystery novels that need almost 300 pages to adequately tell their story this is not one of them. It could probably have benefited from a judicious editor hacking loose a hundred pages or so.

All in all not such a bad experience as the foregoing might have suggested, but I probably won't be seeking out any more Heyer books in the near future.

3 comments:

  1. Hi Bill - I literally just bought a copy of this book the other day having never read anything by Heyer (not even her better-known historical novels) - may put it to the back of the queue frankly .. thanks.

    Sergio

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  2. Sorry that I spoiled your investment. Heyer was better than I expected but I'm not rushing to read any of her other stuff.

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  3. This was the book a friend recommended to me to start with Heyer's mysteries. I liked it all right, though I have to admit her mysteries are not exactly first class, and I'm not into romance. I liked Behold Here's Poison best (though it has disagreeable characters who are annoying at first, it gets better).

    Detection Unlimited was also kind of fun -- as it is a story in which all the suspects are separately trying to solve the case as amateur sleuths. It's major flaw is that she introduces way too many characters with similar names in the very first chapter. It's a good one to read with a notebook in hand.

    I'm also told that one of her romances - The TollGate - is actually a really good mystery, even though it's not technically a whodunnit.

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