Archive for February 10th, 2007
Currently Out of Print (2/10/07)
As one considers the classic mystery stories of the English tradition, no one stands higher than Michael Innes, pseudonym for J.I.M. Stewart, a professor of English at Oxford. Between 1936 and 1986 he wrote 50 mysteries and many other (more serious) works. His mysteries are erudite, full of classical allusions, and surprisingly witty.
In 1987, the critic H.R.F Keating chose â€œApplebyâ€™s Endâ€ as one of the 100 best mysteries of all time, and it certainly deserves that praise. It features John Appleby (Innesâ€™s favorite sleuth) a police inspector whose career is eventually capped by a knighthood and the position of Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. â€œApplebyâ€™s Endâ€ is a fantastic journey through a portion of rural England which features such towns as Sneak, Snarl, Linger, Abbotâ€™s Yatter, and Drool.
Initially sent to investigate the disappearance of Hannah Hoobinâ€™s halfwitted boy, Appleby is taken up by the Raven family, who seem to be eminently certifiable, In quick succession he finds himself investigating the death of Gregory Gropeâ€™s grandmother (who fell down a well one dark night while observing the erotic rites of courting couples), a dog, cow, and boar which may have been turned into marble statues, and the death of Heyhoe, the Ravensâ€™ ancient coachman. Heyhoe had been buried up to the neck in a snowdrift, with just his head sticking outâ€¦ perhaps as a caution to unwary travelers.
His mission is to unravel all these threads, while coping with a local outbreak of witchcraft, and even his projected marriage to the young Judith Raven. The glory of this book, however, is the joy Innes takes in the English language. His writing is so wonderfully rich that you almost want to wrap yourself in his words. Consider his introduction to the wife of Sir Mulberry Farmerâ€¦â€Lady Farmer was a lean woman with features so extremely like a hareâ€™s that to the urban mind she would have appeared natural only if hung upside down with her nose in a little silver can.â€ (I suspect this is an allusion to Harrodâ€™s Food Hall display.)
I would worry about giving away the plot while providing all this detail, but the book is so filled with bizarre happenings that nothing could approach the real thing. Did I guess the ending? Good grief, no. Would I read more books by this author? Every one I can get my hands on. (And while Iâ€™m thinking about itâ€¦ if youâ€™re looking for out-of-print books, got to www.abebooks.comâ€¦ they have 106 copies of this book, starting at $1.00.) Every mystery reader should read this book.
Mystery Book Reviews by DW at http://reviewedbyliz.com Â©2007