Murder’s a Swine by Nap Lombard

Dynamic duo…

😀 😀 😀 😀 🙂

Murder's a SwineAir-raid warden Clem Poplett scurries out of the rain to enjoy a quick smoke in the well of a block of flats which has been designated as an air-raid shelter. He discovers it’s already occupied by Agnes Kinghof, a resident of the block, who has locked herself out and is waiting for the caretaker to come home so he can let her in with his spare key. As the two chat, Agnes becomes aware of an unpleasant odour. Investigating, they discover a very dead body hidden beneath the sandbags in the shelter. Agnes, truth to tell, is rather thrilled – there’s nothing she and her husband Andrew enjoy more than a little amateur detecting! That same evening, Mrs Sibley, who lives in one of the upper flats, is woken by a tapping at her window and is shocked into hysterics when she sees a pig’s head apparently staring in at her. This delights Agnes even more…

Set in the period of the “phoney war” when nothing bad had started happening to the people of London, and with a delightful detective duo in Agnes and Andrew, this is a light-hearted, frothy entertainment, written for humour but with a surprisingly decent mystery underneath. It is soon discovered that the dead man and Mrs Sibley are connected, and the probable identity of the murderer is also soon known. But for various reasons it appears that that person may be disguised as someone else – one of the people who lives in the block of flats or someone who has easy access to the building. So Agnes and Andrew decide to assist the unfortunately named Inspector Eggshell with his enquiries, whether he wants them to or not. Andrew’s cousin Lord “Pig” Whitestone is a high-up in Scotland Yard, and he very definitely doesn’t want them involved – especially Agnes, since he believes a woman’s place is in the home, looking attractive. Agnes is a modern woman, though, who thinks nothing of shinning up a ladder in the middle of the night in pursuit of a possible murderer, even if it means her sheer Couleur de Rose silk stockings may be ruined!

I couldn’t make up my mind whether the influences for this duo were Christie’s Tommy and Tuppence Beresford or Nick and Nora Charles of The Thin Man movies. In the intro, Martin Edwards suggests the latter, and I’m happy to go along – there’s the definite cocktail-drinking life’s-a-lark feel about the young couple. Had it been set later in the war this may have jarred, but the authors show that apart from some shortages the war hadn’t started to feel real to the people on the home front this early on. The authors are another married duo – Gordon Neil Stewart and Pamela Hansford Johnson, writing as “Nap Lombard”. It’s very well written with some great comic timing, and quite racy for the period in an entirely innocent and inoffensive way, with lots of mostly humorous hints of sex and stuff going on behind the blackout curtains. In one sense it’s quite sexist, with all the young women trying to be attractive to catch their respective men and all the men being big tough protectors to the little women in their lives. But, like Tuppence Beresford, our intrepid Agnes is the driving force in the partnership so it has a reasonably modern feel too.

It frequently stretches credulity and the ending is quite ridiculous, but honestly it doesn’t matter – the book isn’t aiming for gritty slice-of-life stuff. It’s the kind of thing to pick up when you want a few hours of pure entertainment in the company of some very enjoyable characters. Unfortunately, “Nap Lombard” only wrote two mystery novels – I do hope the BL will publish the other one some day. Great fun! 

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

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36 thoughts on “Murder’s a Swine by Nap Lombard

  1. This does sound like fun, FictionFan! And it’s really difficult to achieve that balance of light, fun read and a decent mystery, too. Sometimes, a story like that just hits the spot, even if the ending is a little ridiculous. It sounds as though there’s a solid sense of early-war London, too, which is also appealing to me. Don’t tell my TBR, but I may have to put this on my wish list…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Somehow credibility isn’t so important when a book is aiming at a more humorous style, and the two main characters are so enjoyable that the story is almost secondary – still good, though! I definitely think you should add this one – it’s only little, your TBR will hardly even notice it’s there… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You certainly made a good case for this one! Yes, I tend to look for pure entertainment quite often in my reading these days…. especially in the company of enjoyable characters. (my latest was entertaining, but the characters weren’t that enjoyable)

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s mainly why I enjoy vintage crime so much – they definitely aimed at light-hearted entertainment more often than current angst-ridden, harrowing crime fiction! This is a lot of fun. It’s a pity they only wrote two but apparently they got divorced, which I consider to be very selfish of them! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It sounds as though this didn’t take itself too seriously, and we could all do with a bit of frothy fun in our reading from time to time. Good to end the week with a 5 star review.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Absolutely! That’s what I love about vintage crime – they tend to aim much more for entertainment and humour than most of the harrowing current crime. The appearing/disappearing pig’s head is a lovely touch… 😉

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    • Yes, I didn’t mind it being ridiculous because the whole book wasn’t taking itself too seriously, but the underlying story was still good – another BL winner! 😀

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  4. It’s interesting that this story is set early in the war when war routines didn’t seem to have such a serious purpose, I don’t remember reading a story set in this period. I have my usual uncertainty about whether the humour will work for me or not. I’d probably give the book a try but it’s not available through my usual sources, so maybe not for now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I couldn’t remember reading anything from this early stage of the war either. It gave it an interesting feel – so light-hearted, but we have the hindsight to know what was just ahead for London. It’s another very new release so it may turn up in your library at some point – if you’ve enjoyed the Tommy and Tuppence books I think you’d enjoy this, but if the humour in them doesn’t work for you, then this probably won’t either…

      Liked by 1 person

    • It really is fun, isn’t it? I wish they’d written more of them, but apparently divorce put a stop to the series! You’d think they could have stayed together for the sake of the readers… 😉

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    • It is fun! yes, I found that aspect interesting – they were sort of wishing the war would hurry up and get started, almost as if they didn’t really believe it was real. And yet with hindsight we know what was just ahead…

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I love love love the sound of this one. I’m beginning to learn that when it comes to my preferred reading, I much prefer the light-hearted mystery these days. Perhaps it’s because of the pandemic, but this gritty true life police procedurals just feel too much for me right now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know contemporary crime is hugely popular, but it usually feels too gritty and downright depressing for me. I’ve always looked on crime fiction as primarily an entertainment, and vintage crime is so much better for that. This one is great fun!

      Liked by 2 people

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