Witty and thought-provoking series of murder mysteries set against the backdrop of 1940s war torn Britain. The slightly off-beat, resilient characters...moreWitty and thought-provoking series of murder mysteries set against the backdrop of 1940s war torn Britain. The slightly off-beat, resilient characters inhabiting the fictional town of Mumsgate on the east coast of Britain stand in charming contrast to the realities of bombs falling, air raid shelters and rationing that plague the country and the rest of Europe.
Even Hitler & Co's unwelcome visits cannot restrain the strong arm of the law for very long in this little town - there may be no petrol for the police car and no bacon and eggs for the traditional English breakfast, but they still have their humanity, their sense of humour and above all, their sniffer dog instincts for hunting villains.
The author's intention is not so much showing how the crimes are being solved but how the people, who still try to uphold the law no matter how terrible or chaotic the circumstances around them may be, find coping mechanisms to help them do their job.
Given that Germany's book market today is alarmingly short of humorous writers, this book goes a long way to restore the balance.(less)
“Winter at Death’s Hotel” by Kenneth Cameron is only good for one thing: tear out each page and use it to wrap up your soiled sanitar...moreContains spoilers
“Winter at Death’s Hotel” by Kenneth Cameron is only good for one thing: tear out each page and use it to wrap up your soiled sanitary towels or tampons, ladies, before disposing of both! Writers of both sexes: this book is a perfect example of how NOT TO WRITE a novel in the 21st century.
Interestingly, on the hard cover copy I borrowed from my local library there is no “blurb” summarising or even hinting at the plot; instead, we are told on the outer sleeve that author Lee Child thinks the Cameron novel is “beautifully imagined and perfectly executed”.
There's certainly a lesson to be learned here: Be careful, fellow writers, what you recommend to readers...for I shan’t ever read a book written by Mr Child’s as a direct result of his recommendation!
What did Orion Books, the publishers, do to Mr Child? Club him over the head with an encyclopaedia of proper crime writers? The mind boggles if Mr Child thought this was a “perfectly executed “ plot for it contains more tired old clichés and sheer nonsense than I have seen in a very long time. It was a real struggle to finish this book and at the end of it I was utterly disgusted.
Hitch up to the Holmes’ Band-wagon and watch the Money rolling in
You can just picture it: Mr Cameron told his publishers he was going to write a book where the wife of Sherlock Holmes’ creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, investigates a series of gruesome murders in New York. An adventure that will change her life and attitude to marriage forever, the inner book sleeve promises the reader. What a delightfully cute idea, the publishers must have thought! And what a cunning marketing ploy to tie in with the BBC’s successful “Sherlock” TV series not to mention the recent Hollywood movies about Sherlock Holmes!
Lacking Sense and Sensibility...and a healthy Dollop of Logic
What Mr Cameron probably failed to mention in the synopsis he handed to his editor was that he would indulge in every sick male fantasy along the way, allowing his heroine Mrs Doyle to be brutalised and raped by a crazed villain who was so obvious right from the beginning that this is not a “who-dunnit” but a “when-will-ya-get-to-the-point” type of book right from the outset. And just when you thought you couldn’t possibly be more irritated at all this rubbishy writing, at the very end the author lets the villain escape and doesn’t even bother to tie together any of the other plot strings. Perhaps the author got just as bored as this reader did?
The plot, incidentally, is clearly based on the infamous real life “Chicago murder hotel” of Dr Henry Howard Holmes. In 1893, HH Holmes built a hotel that he used as a factory for murdering people for their money. His killing spree later escalated to such an extent that he murdered whole families, raping and torturing anyone, no matter what age, just for the fun of it.
Mr Cameron sets the plot for his novel in New York City in 1896 but instead of applying logic to the architectural facets of his book, he tries to make us believe that a tall, large man could snake his way through a narrow, less than 60cm wide gap between walls AND climb up and down ladders and slide through trap doors in these “tunnels” with ease. Ever gone pot-holing, Mr Author? Clearly not.
Who exactly did Mr C. think built these tunnels between outer hotel walls? Snow White’s 7 dinky dwarfs? Your average sized builder wouldn’t have fitted in there, that’s for sure, not even an undernourished working man of 1896!
To fix ladders to brick walls there have to be brackets. In total, ladder and brackets would take up at least another 20 cm. So, the killer is able to chase after two females, who are much smaller than him, without any problems at all, holding a knife in one hand and a lantern in the other, while scampering up and down vertical ladders and flitting through trap doors like he’s a jack-in-the-box in tunnels just 40cm wide in places? I think not!
Incidentally, having suffered severely sprained ankles many times over throughout my life time, I can say with some authority that one doesn’t hobble about with crutches or walking sticks for 2 weeks like 28-year-old Louisa Doyle does in this book nor does one take drugs like morphine for the first 3 days to dull the allegedly excruciating pain – it’s not actually that painful once the foot is elevated and strapped up. Yet another unbelievable plot device by the author and one that could have been so easily researched!
There should be a red flashing Button for “Cliché Alert”
A good writer is able to make us forget their own gender, when describing the adventures of a protagonist possessed of a gender opposite to the writer’s own.
At no point whatsoever in this novel can the reader forget that the author is a man trying to write the story from a woman’s point of view. He so utterly fails to capture what makes a female a woman that at times I wondered if he’d actually ever met one.
When Mrs Doyle craves independence from her controlling husband and seeks the companionship of other females, this author promptly lets her meet a preposterous pre-suffragette woman who tells Mrs Doyle that the “perfect man” is a man who acts out all his fantasies, which in this instance means the Bowery Butcher, the man responsible for the gruesome murders. In other words, when a woman has achieved independence as three of the women in this story have, she talks nothing but nonsense and can’t be anything other than a man hater and lesbian.
At this point in the novel the reader wonders if the author is trying to telling us, Louisa had better put up and shut up and be a meek little wife, tolerating her husband’s irritating, mean and pompous ways instead of looking for a better life and marriage. For no matter how “imperfect” Mr Doyle is as a husband, at least he’s not acting out what a “perfect” man would be like, given half a chance. Yep, given half a chance, men will be cavemen and rapists, we knew that, didn’t we, girls?
Reader question: Is Mr Author actually capable of seeing men and women as real people or can he only recognise 2-dimensional card-board cut-outs?
Just when you thought the “Show us your Tits” Type of Writing had become extinct...
Every time a female character of this book is left to her own devices and without male company, she immediately strips off and dances around her room without wearing a stitch. Given that the plot is set in the winter (the title was a dead give-away) and that 1896 hotels didn’t have the type of central heating we have today, this behaviour is clearly aimed to please male readers – Victorian people’s attitude to nudity was such that they would have bathed in their undergarments and not stripped off at all, never mind how cold or warm the room would have been. Never mind, the MALE author needs his own personal fantasies indulged, what-ho.
Remind me again, when exactly did male chauvinist pig-dinosaurs become extinct?
When protagonist Mrs Doyle meets the character of Minnie Fitch, a woman newspaper reporter or rather the cliché of one, Mr Cameron’s male fantasies completely get the better of him and both women embark on the beginnings of a lesbian relationship instead of doing what they set out to do, namely being comrades in arms against a common foe and becoming friends in the process. Naturally, they need to be punished for daring to be happy without men. They both need to get their come-uppance, and boy, does the author get his male revenge!
How much more cliché can the reader take at this point? You’d better roll up your sleeves and soldier on, because there’s much more to come!
When the reveal finally arrives, every reader with an ounce of sense will have guessed who the killer is. There were only ever 3 men who had the means and opportunity, and it was pretty obvious which one of them would be the killer.
Not content with subjecting his heroine and female readers to horrendous and disgusting ways in which the killer has murdered and disposed of his female victims, the author now “treats” his readers to a graphic description of a rape, the brutalization of two women, one of them Mrs Arthur Conan Doyle herself. What the descendants of historic characters like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his wife must have made of this horrible book one can only surmise.
Personally, I would have visited one of Mr C’s book signings and smacked him with his stupid book where it hurts the most. And then some!
Know thine Enemy
The author tells us that he researched New York City’s architecture as it was in the 1890s – it would have been far better had he spent time researching what motivated Victorian women, what their aspirations were in 1896 and what women really think of men – then and now. For it would have allowed him to present readers with realistic and believable female characters instead of hackneyed comic book fiction versions of women...and men for that matter.
The brutalisation of women in this book is clearly used to "teach them a lesson", both by the villain and the author, one feels. I know this will come as a shock to you, Mr Ignorant Author, but believable female protagonists don’t need to be fictionally raped to understand that men, without exception, are capable of anything, no matter how horrible, disgusting or brutal. There’s a whole wrecked and gasping-for-air Planet Earth all around us with two million years of men’s history, showing us exactly what men are really like every minute of the day. Messrs Hitler, Dr Mengele, Dr H H Holmes and Jack the Ripper were men or had you forgotten, Mr Author?
Lousia’s violation appears to serve as a cruel writer's plot device,forcing her to finally “grow up” as if she wasn't already an adult. This, of course, is utterly revolting,sensationalist, despicable and frankly, in my opinion, tells us everything we never wanted to know about Kenneth Cameron and his warped attitude to women, and obviously nothing about Victorian women and their relationship to Victorian men.
Instead of wasting your time with this novel, borrow a few biographies on courageous historic heroines like Mrs Pankhurst and her suffragettes to remind yourself why women fought for the vote and are still fighting for a better world. Or simply read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "Sherlock Holmes" who, one feels certain, would have bobbed Kenneth Cameron squarely on the nose for this awful book. Failing that, Mrs Hudson would have done!
Published in 2012, this is the best of the Dandy Gilver murder mysteries so far as far as this reader is concerned. A superb mix of murder, mayhem, bl...morePublished in 2012, this is the best of the Dandy Gilver murder mysteries so far as far as this reader is concerned. A superb mix of murder, mayhem, blackmail, childhood reminiscence and growing up pains, “A Bothersome Number of Corpses” presents the reader with so much more than just sparkling wit, excellent characterisation and a plot that leaves us guessing as to the murderer’s identity right to the very end. With this book we see a side to amateur sleuth Dandy Gilver we has hitherto only suspected but rarely seen.
Catriona McPherson’s books have gone from strength to strength with each one she has published and even though she gives credit for “almost co-authorship” to her editor Suzie Dooré on this one, the lightness of touch, the incredibly witty turn of phrase are unmistakably Ms McPherson’s and hers alone.
Plot: The sister of an old childhood friend calls Dandy Gilver for help. Youngest sister Fleur Lipscott is in trouble – how could anyone get into trouble working as an English mistress in an out-of-the-way public school for girls in Scotland, you might ask, where Fleur has been living a nun-like existence for some 8 years?
With Dandy’s usual talent for creating comic mix-ups, she lands herself a job as replacement French tutor at St Columba’s College for Ladies, where an astonishing number of tutors have vanished without a trace. Before long, the first corpse floats onto the beach, but when Dandy accompanies her friend Fleur to view the body, in case is turns out to be the missing French tutor, Fleur claims that she has murdered five people and that this latest corpse is yet another victim of hers. Could this possibly be the same fluffy Fleur, the flower child Dandy used to know when she was 18 and stayed at Pereford, Fleur’s dreamy childhood home in Dorset? How on earth did she turn into a cold-blooded murderess?
Dandy is determined to prove Fleur’s innocence, even if she herself doesn’t quite believe in it. With the help of her trusted companion Alec and their newly acquired friend, Constable Reid, Dandy sets out to find all the missing tutors – and prove that Fleur isn’t mad or a murderer and that there’s more to St Columba than meets the eye. A wild goose chase across most of Britain and several dead but finally identified bodies later, Dandy is still wondering, did Fleur murder any of them or is it all in the former English mistress’ head? In the process, however, Dandy uncovers blackmail and beastly extortion, while Alec discovers his capacity for eating good food is matched by his ability to charm the birds from the trees.
This is a wonderfully crafted book that dips into childhood holiday remembrances without the slightest touch of sentimentality. Just like the gently lapping waves at the beach reveal a glimpse of shingle now and then, we see a different Dandy emerging, the one she could have been, if hard-nosed Nanny Palmer and unloving husband Hugh Gilver hadn’t crushed love and life out of Dandy in the intervening years. We see what Dandy might have been had she been loved because Fleur is held up like a mirror.
We tend to see episodes from our youth and childhood through rose-tinted glasses, when we have experienced bliss and happiness. Having never had a loving family home, neither as a child nor as a grown woman married to the incredibly stuffy and dull Hugh Gilver, Dandy remembers her holidays at Pereford in Dorset with aching clarity and feels the slow tearing apart of all she held dear for so very long rather deeply.
Alec is unsympathetic and doesn’t understand her misgivings when it comes to badgering the Lipscott family, the first time we see him in a lesser role in McPherson’s books. For this is essentially a book about women, little girls and grown-up ones and everything in between, but it is also a book about her detective Dandy and how she came to be the person we see.
A highly recommended read; laugh-out loud funny in places, thought-provoking throughout. If you love women in all their permutations – this is your book.