Death In The Stocks – Georgette Heyer

Summary:

A real murder mystery, set in a classic English country town.

Main Characters:

Antonia Vereker: Half-sister (and don’t you forget it) to the deceased, she is both happy he is dead, and loving being in the frame for the murder.

Kenneth Vereker: Half-brother, and like Antonia he’s happy at the demise at the less-than-beloved half.

Inspector Hannasyde: Humourous, thorough and dogged detective, he gets there in the end through old-school hard work.

Minor Characters:

Giles Carrington: The solicitor cousin, whose main role in life is to keep his cousins on the right side of the law, and assists the police with high quality amateur sleuthing.

Plot:

The book, the first in a series, is set in the years of and around the Great Depression, when class consciousness and a certain deferment to the nobility or upper-class was considered the norm, even expected. The suspects are by-and-large of this “class”, and treat everyone they meet with disdain. You can see the sneer forming on the lips as they speak.

A young, inexperienced policeman, doing his nightly rounds in the sleepy village of Ashleigh Green, discovers a bloodied body in the ancient stocks of the village, which turns out to be that of Arnold Vereker, a wealthy and much-disliked weekend visitor to the village.

The local Inspector is sent for, and he soon concludes that “The Yard” will need to be brought in. At this point, we begin to meet some of the main suspects who cheerfully admit that the death is good news to and for them. At this point, I have to say that these people are more than half-way to bonkers.

Antonia is staying in her half-brother’s apartment, having driven down to surprise him when he got there (only he never did). We discover she is engaged to Rudolph Mesurier, an employee of Arnold who Arnold hated. Kenneth, we discover, is “above money”, as he is living the life of a bohemian artist.  Admittedly, he is hard-up for cash, and wants to marry his fiancée Violet. He is also amazingly rude.

Rudolph is hiding secrets, and Violet, considered a gold-digger by the others [odd choice to pick the impoverished artist, if that be so], is not as much a do-gooder as she first appears. A third person then appears, a larger-than-life personality

What I Liked:

  • The characters do grow on you, but for me don’t really become likeable.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • The mystery itself was easily solved, even for someone like me who is rubbish at sleuthing!
  • There was not much action in it, and relies on the dialogue for interest.

Overall:

This is a novel of its time, and it is unfair to apply 21st century thoughts and mores to this era. It was written around the 1930’s (I got an advance copy, as I believe it is being re-issued in 2019).

Nothing like this could be written now, as it contains gross examples of racism, class condescension, sexism, and the atmosphere it depicts is unpleasant to modern eyes and ears – the so-very-English uppercrust scoring points off each other in barbed debate, while the minions and assorted sub-humans wait deferentially on their chance to be recognised. People are expected to show the stiff upper lip (unless of course you are not of “the quality”, then all bets are off.

I had never heard of Georgette Heyer before (or, I had but I forgot), and this style and era of writing does not appeal to me. It absolutely will resonate with a certain type of audience, who like to evoke that much different and now disappeared world, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Acknowledgements:

Thanks to Netgalley for sending me an advance copy, for an honest and objective review.

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