Death in White Pyjamas and Death Knows No Calendar by John Bude

Double the pleasure…

Every now and then the British Library produces a twofer in their Crime Classics series – two full-length novels by the same author in one volume – and these always feel like an extra special treat, especially when the author is one of the ones who has become a readers’ favourite, as John Bude apparently has. I must admit, although I’ve enjoyed the previous Bude novels I’ve read, he hadn’t become one of my personal stars, but I hoped maybe these two would raise him up to that status. And they did! I loved both of these very different novels…

Death in White Pyjamas

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

Having made his fortune in business, Sam Richardson is now enjoying his middle years by using his wealth to support a small theatre company, led by director Basil Barnes. Barnes’ artistic drive and Richardson’s knowledge of the type of thing he himself likes to see performed on stage make for a winning combination, and Richardson’s wealth allows Basil to hire a core group of established actors and actresses along with a few promising newcomers. In the winter months they perform in the London theatre Richardson has bought, and during the summer closed-season he throws open his country home to any of the regulars who need a little break or for the group to gather for early rehearsals of the next season’s plays. This summer most of the company are staying at Richardson’s house, while Basil has bought a little cottage close by and is in the process of fitting it out to his own taste. However, as in any group, there are tensions and jealousies under the surface, and murder is waiting in the wings…

This is one of these mysteries where we slowly get to know all the characters and possible motives before the crime is committed, so my advice is – don’t read the blurb on the back or the introduction until after you’ve read the book! Half the fun is seeing all the convoluted threads that seem to give each of the characters reasons to want rid of one or more of the other ones, and the identity of the eventual victim is not at all clear until the murder actually happens. It almost gives two mysteries – the first, who will be killed, revealed around halfway through, and then the second, who is the killer?

The characterisation is great. There are all the theatrical stereotypes – the old character actor, the beautiful young ingénue, the aspiring playwright, the predatory director, the money-minded producer – but they’re all brought beautifully to life with a lot of warmth and humour, so that they don’t feel at all stale. Once the victim is known, the whodunit is reasonably easy to guess, but the howdunit aspect is great fun, and as with the best vintage crime there are happy endings for those who deserve them and justice for those who don’t. Excellent!

Death Knows No Calendar

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

When his old friend Lydia Arundel is found dead in her locked artist’s studio with a gun close at hand, Major Tom Boddy finds he can’t believe that she was the type of woman to ever contemplate suicide. So he sets out to investigate, armed only with his extensive knowledge of detective fiction and ably assisted by his batman, Syd Gammon. Although he has his suspicions from an early stage, he soon realises there are several people with the motive to do away with Lydia, a woman whom men fell in love with too easily, and who enjoyed her power over them too much. But even if he works out whodunit, he knows he’ll never be able to persuade the police that she was murdered unless he can solve the mystery of how the crime was done…

There’s more than one “impossible” scenario hidden in this gem of a book, which will please fans of the locked room style of mystery. But for me the greatest joy is in Major Boddy’s character – he’s one of these traditional old colonials who is scared of nothing and assumes nothing is beyond him. When he sets his mind to a task, he sees it through. But he’s also kind-hearted and, typical of the fictional type, gives the impression of being rather baffled by human behaviour, especially of the female variety. There’s so much humour in this book – I smiled and chuckled my way through it. As well as the locked room aspect, the setting is another much-loved vintage crime staple – the small village, where everyone knows everyone else’s secrets, or think they do at least. As in Death in White Pyjamas, the identity of the killer is easier to work out than the method of the crime, and in this one the amateur detection efforts of the Major and Syd are hugely entertaining. I think I enjoyed it even more than Death in White Pyjamas.

So two great books in one volume – I hereby officially declare myself a John Bude fan and now can’t wait to read more of his stuff. Doubly recommended!

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, the British Library.

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35 thoughts on “Death in White Pyjamas and Death Knows No Calendar by John Bude

  1. Oh, this does sound delightful, FictionFan! Twofers are fun, and it’s even better when both books are terrific. I haven’t read a lot of Bude, but I do like the way he was able to create almost-impossible mysteries, and still develop the characters. That’s not easy to do!

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    • I always feel like it’s an extra little free gift when the BL does one of their twofers! I don’t know why the other Bude books I’ve read didn’t have quite the same impact on me – I suspect it’s as much about mood as the quality of the books, often. These two were perfect books for a bit of mood uplift, which was just what I needed at the time – he’s such an entertaining writer! 😀

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  2. It’s always exciting to discover a new favorite writer, and I’m glad both stories were of an equally high quality. I like the notion of the main mystery actually being the identity of the victim, and as I’ve said before, I always enjoy stories about theatre and actors, probably because it is in line with my own work.

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    • Yes, except that the BL is introducing me to so many new favourites I can’t keep up! I always expect one of the books in a twofer to be weaker so it was a special treat to love the second one even more than the first. I loved all the theatre stuff – I believe he spent a lot of time in theatre in his real life, though I can’t remember if it was professional or am-dram. He managed to make the characters “types” without actually feeling too much like stereotypes, if that makes sense. Highly enjoyable!

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  3. These sound wonderful — I’ll have to look for them when they let us out and about again! I’m glad Mr. Bude established himself as a star in your eyes with this twofer. I love finding a new author to support!

    Liked by 1 person

    • They’re well worth hunting down – perfect for lifting the spirits! I must say the BL has introduced me to so many new favourite authors I can’t keep up! I keep saying I’m looking forward to reading more of an author’s books, and then the next author they bring back is just as enjoyable – it’s a terrible problem… 😉

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    • It’s a pity, but yes – sometimes a particular style just doesn’t work for us. I’m like that with contemporary crime these days – I abandon more of them than I finish, sadly. And it doesn’t seem fair to keep blaming the books since it’s clearly me!

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  4. I’ve got this on my wishlist in Kindle version (still a pre-order). Based on your review(s), I may bump it up to the top so i don’t forget about it!

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  5. These sound great! I will keep an eye out for this one. Regarding one of your other recommendations: Do you recommend to read (listen to) the Jeeves & Wooster stories in order? I had a look at them and one of the reviews said there are a lot of references to the early short stories in the later books.

    Liked by 1 person

    • They are – perfect for a bit of mood enhancement when required! I don’t think the Jeeves books have to be read in order at all. He does refer to earlier books but basically all the plots are the same* so they’re not really spoilers, and he always explains what he’s talking about. I’ve always read them all out of sequence and never found it to be a problem.

      *Some girl Bertie was once engaged to is now engaged to someone else so he thinks he’s safe. But then she breaks up and decides to marry Bertie instead. Jeeves must save the day! Plus sort out a couple of other fraught romances and keep Bertie’s many aunts happy. There’s a group of these pestilential girls and their various fiancés (and aunts) and the books kind of rotate among them but it’s the situations that are funny rather than the plots. And they all end happily ever after… till the next time… 😀

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  6. Yay! At your first mention, I had bought these two on the basis of the title and cover and an assumption they had to be good! I’ll save reading them for when I need a smile. I’m glad they gave you such pleasure.

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    • Hurrah! Yes, they’d already earned their five stars for me on the basis of the titles and covers so it’s just as well the books were great too! They’re perfect for a bit of mood uplift – so perfect timing. I’m 99.99999% certain you’ll enjoy them as much as I did. Hope so! 😀

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    • I felt these were in a different class to the ones the BL issued earlier, although I’m never sure how much my own mood affects my enjoyment. These are perfect mood enhancers, which was exactly what I needed! Hope you enjoy them just as much if you get to them sometime. 😀

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  7. Both of these books sound lovely, although I’m partial to the white pyjamas one. I’m not sure why, but there’s something about a murder within a theatre company that I find especially entertaining-maybe because actors are dramatic anyway, when an actual crime occurs their reactions tend to be entertaining? I sound so horrible when I say things like that haha

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