Two’s company 3…

Two for the Murder, Mystery, Mayhem challenge this week. One of these I expected to love and didn’t; the other I expected not to love and did. So much for judging books by their covers!

The Floating Admiral by The Detection Club



While out fishing on the local river, Neddy Ware sees a rowing boat floating upstream on the tide. He manages to hook it and bring it to the bank, where he discovers it contains a dead body. Admiral Penistone, the corpse, is a newcomer to the area so no one knows much about him or his niece, Elma, who lives with him. It’s up to Inspector Rudge to find out who could have had a motive to kill him. He’ll be helped or hindered in his investigation by the eleven Golden Age mystery writers, all members of the Detection Club, who wrote this mystery, one chapter each and then forwarding it on to the next author to add their chapter, with no collusion as to the solution. Some of the true greats are here, like Christie and Sayers, and lots of others who have been having a renaissance in the recent splurge of vintage re-releases.

Challenge details:
Book: 27
Subject Heading: ‘Play Up! Play Up! and Play the Game!’
Publication Year: 1931

Lovely idea. I fear I found it a total flop. The first several writers repeat each other ad nauseam, each adding a few more clues or red herrings as they go. Poor Rudge never gets a chance to investigate anything, since each new writer wheels him around and sends him off in a different direction. I was determined to persevere, mainly because it has inexplicably high ratings on Goodreads, but by halfway through I was losing the will to live. Then Ronald Knox decided to use his chapter to list thirty-nine questions arising from the previous chapters, all of which needed to be answered before we could arrive at the solution. Thirty-nine! I gave up. I tried flicking forward to the last chapter as I usually do when abandoning a book mid-stream, only to discover the last chapter is about novella-length (unsurprisingly, really, since I suppose it has to address those thirty-nine questions plus any more that had been added in the second half). I asked myself if I would be able to sleep at night without ever discovering who killed the Admiral, and while pondering that question quietly dozed off, which I felt was a fairly effective answer. I also tried reading the various other solutions from some of the other authors which are given as an appendix, but the first couple were so ludicrous I gave up. Clearly many people have enjoyed this, but for the life of me I can’t understand why. Oh well!

Amazon UK Link

* * * * *

The Medbury Fort Murder by George Limnelius

Sex in the Golden Age??

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

When Lieutenant Lepean is found with his throat cut and his head nearly severed from his body in a locked room at the isolated Medbury Fort on the Thames, it soon becomes clear he was justifiably disliked by a whole host of his colleagues. Four in particular had good reason to hate him – two he was blackmailing, one whose family he had dishonoured, and one whose girlfriend the lascivious Lepean was pursuing. But first Chief Inspector McMaster and Inspector Paton will have to work out how someone managed to get into his locked bedroom…

Despite the locked room aspect – never my favourite style of mystery – there’s actually much more in this one about motivation than means. First published in 1929, Limnelius is remarkably open about sex, acknowledging unjudgementally that sex happens outside marriage, that lust does not always equate to love, and that sexual jealousy rouses dangerous passions. The sexual elements are viewed largely from the male perspective, but the women are not all simply passive recipients of male desire – he makes it clear that women are sexual beings too. All very different from the usual chaste Golden Agers, although still couched in terms that are far from the graphic soft porn that some writers tend to go for in these degenerate days!

Challenge details:
Book: 30
Subject Heading: Miraculous Murders
Publication Year: 1929

However, just as I was going to hail Limnelius as a man before his time, he reassured me that while he may be forward-thinking about sex, he’s conventionally Golden Age when it comes to class…

In the history of crime there is no single case of a murder of violence having being committed by an educated man. The sane, educated mind is not capable of the necessary degree of egotism combined with ferocity.

Hmm, tell that to Lord Lucan!

It’s very well written and, classism notwithstanding, I found the psychology of the various characters convincing. The solution shocked me somewhat, not because it’s particularly shocking in itself, but merely that the motivation seemed far too modern for a book of this era, and probably more realistic as a result. I enjoyed it very much. I believe he only wrote a handful of novels, but I look forward to reading more if I can track any down.

Amazon UK Link

16 thoughts on “Two’s company 3…

  1. It goes to show, FictionFan, that two heads are not always better than one. It’s hard enough for a air of writers to put together a cohesive, engaging novel, let alone a group. I can see how you felt a bit dragged this way and that with the plot, clues, and so on. As you know, I’m a major Christie fan, but The Floating Admiral, in my opinion, isn’t one of her best projects. The Limnelius sounds interesting. I’m especially pleased he didn’t present the usual (for the time) view of women (although *cringe* at the classism). It sounds like an interesting plot, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I imagine it was much more fun for the writers to do than for the reader to read. Perhaps if they had agreed on a plot and a solution and then written a chapter each it would have been fun to try to spot their different style. But the mystery got lost in this, and the investigation was so messy! Oh well! The Limnelius, on the other hand, was an unexpected treat, that I wouldn’t have been surprised to find had been written in the 1950s rather than the ’20s.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Although I enjoyed reading The Floating Admiral, it was the experiment I liked rather than the book itself! I thought the best chapters by far were Sayers and Christie, and that there was a very clear reason why most of the others are now so unknown.

    The other book sounds interesting, though, and very ahead of its time (in some ways)!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I liked the idea of The Floating Admiral, but felt the execution left too much to be desired, like, for example, a coherent plot! Much though I’ve enjoyed a lot of vintage crime, I really don’t think there’s anyone to touch Christie, not even my new favourite, Lorac. She’s in a class of her own. Yes, the Limnelius was an unexpected treat, and I wouldn’t have been at all surprised to find it had been written in the ’50s rather than the ’20s.


  3. I’m always sad when an editor doesn’t pull the plug on a great idea that fails in execution. The other sounds a bit more palatable, although I, too, tripped over the statement about education being a panacea for violence. What a hoot!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I have a feeling The Detection Club may have published this themselves originally, so probably there was no one in the process to say it wasn’t working. Having said that, loads of people seem to have enjoyed it – weird! Haha, I love the idea that “educated” people, which of course means middle and upper class in the jargon of the time, wouldn’t bash someone over the head! Yeah, right!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Well, yes… that second author was sounding quite reasonable, until that quote about “the sane, educated mind.”!

    The first book sounds like a fun idea, but I can see how easily it might fail since authors often have very differing writing styles and approaches to their plots.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, I know! And not a hint of irony – he clearly really believed it! Yes, The Floating Admiral might have worked better if they’d agreed on a basic plot, but they were all leading it off in different directions and it just became a mess. I bet they had far more fun writing it than I did reading it!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Berkeley’s chapter is nearly book length all on its own as he desperately tries to resolve all the clues and red herrings! I bet it was far more fun to write than it is to read. Haha, I know – and not a hint of irony! Limnelius clearly really believed that!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I think it would have worked better if they’d agreed a basic plot at the beginning and then it might have been fun spotting their different styles in the various chapters. But as it is, it’s a mess! I bet it was more fun to write it than it is to read it!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Like you, I love the idea of that first one; a bunch of writers adding to a mystery novel, building on one another sounds really fun, but in actuality, I can understand why it would be hard to pull off, and of course, read! Second one sounds so much more fun. The quote you included about the ‘educated’ mind, almost sounds like sarcasm when you read it nowadays!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s like that kids’ game where you each draw a bit of a person, then fold it over, and the next person draws a different bit – fun to do, but doesn’t end up with very good pictures! Haha, yes, clearly he hadn’t read as many news articles as we all have about how educated people behave! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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