This collection of short stories might have plenty of variety but it is all written with great mastery of a form that eludes some writers.
Here the rea This collection of short stories might have plenty of variety but it is all written with great mastery of a form that eludes some writers.
Here the reader's attention is grabbed through a number of different ways including thriller, ghost story as well as insights into the social world of 19th century French life.
To pick out a selection from the first third of the book to give a flavour is not too difficult.
Simon's Dad is a heart warming tale of a boy seeking a father to end the bullying at school and as a result ending years of shame and pain for his mother by landing his mother a husband. You find your heart swelling at the end of the story as Simon informs his bullies that their days of targeting him are over.
Then you get a change in mood with the story that gives the title to the collection, A Day in the Country, providing a girl from a shopkeeping family with a moment of love that she can never forget. Her bawdy mother and ineffectual father are used brilliantly to illustrate the difference between those working in the suburbs and country folk.
That difference between the country and the city is also picked up in the story Riding Out which sees a man keen to show his family he can ride knocking down an old woman as he loses control of his steed in central Paris.
If there was a theme to the first third of the collection it might have been countryside and the second has stories that make various references to money. The Necklace describes the costs that borrowing and losing a necklace have on one couple only for them to discover at the end of a decade spent clearing their debts that it wasn't worth a great deal of money.
Penny pinching is on display again in The Umbrella where a woman wants her husband to have a good umbrella but is not prepared to pay for that. As his work colleagues ruin the cheap ones that he turns up to work with she would rather claim on the insurance than pay out for a proper umbrella.
That ability to pierce a side of someone's character is on display again with Bed 29 where a proud and vain solider is unable to show compassion for an old lover struck down with syphillis. Happy to be seen with her when she was beautiful he has no words of comfort for her when she is ill.
The last third of the book contains some of the longer and darker stories. The Little Roque Girl is an account of the discovery of a murdered girl and then the unravelling of the Major's mind. Responsible for her rape and death he finally loses his mind after being haunted by her ghost.
Our Spot is also fairly dark showing off the agression of a couple that lose their fishing spot on the river bank. Their anger at losing out results in the death of the rival fisherman but as the court case recounts the anger and death is more by accident and the fisherman is aquitted.
A great collection of stories that provoke various reactions but come from a writer clearly able to turn his pen at will to deliver stories of very quality....more
Fiction should play with truth and reality and this whole story does it wonderfully. Starting off with the premise that Napoleon has escaped from his Fiction should play with truth and reality and this whole story does it wonderfully. Starting off with the premise that Napoleon has escaped from his prison island St Helena to be replaced by a double the story charts what might happen.
The Emperor heads back to France leaning on the planning of an organisation dedicated to restoring him to power. But delays and bad weather means he is diverted and there is a wonderful moment when Napoleon goes with some British tourists to see the battlefield of Waterloo.
he finally manages to get back to Paris but without money or friends has to take refuge with a widow of one of his old loyal infantrymen. he uses his strategic skill to restore the fortunes of her melon business revealing to some of those around him as a result he is who they had thought he was.
But with the death of the double all those miles away on the island Napoleon can no more reveal who he is. Who would believe him and the fear that came with knowing he was still alive is snuffed out like a flame.
As he wanders through the gardens of an asylum watching the other napoleon's take the air before returning to the hospital his predicament as a pretender fully dawns on him.
This story is fun in the sense it takes one of the great historical 'what if' and takes it to a conclusion but it is also a disturbing prod at the question of identity. What does it mean to have your identity taken away from you, particularly when it's permanent through death? What does it fell like to have no one believe you?
One of the themes that emerges is that even those that followed Napoleon blindly into musket fire and the face of canon balls had no idea what he actually looked like. But the legend was stronger than reality and the idea of an aging, balding and over weight Napoleon returning from the dead to over throw the French establishment is one that even his most loyal foot soldiers will not b able to support....more
It's always going to be hard to play with the hard-boiled detective format but one option, used here by Latimer, is to wait a fair bit before you intr
It's always going to be hard to play with the hard-boiled detective format but one option, used here by Latimer, is to wait a fair bit before you introduce the private eye into proceedings.
Not only wait a bit but then even when he has been introduced play the character in a minor key until they suddenly emerge towards the last third as the principal driver of the action.
Does it work? Only to a degree. While you wait for the detective to take centre stage you naturally search for alternatives and even when the action is in full flight you find yourself as a reader holding back from giving the hero your fulsome support.
The reason for the mechanics of the book stem from the clever premise that a man who has just a couple of days before facing the electric chair suddenly decides to fight to clear his name.
Robert Westland is rich but starts the book almost happy to take the rap for the murder of his wife. But after a conversation with one of the real murderers in the cell next door to his own he decides he will fight.
Money being no object he hires a crack lawyer and a tram including colleagues, his girlfriend and a couple of recommended private detectives.
As one of the private detectives Bill Crane seems to take an age coming to the foreground of the action but once there he moves swiftly, aided by heavy doses of alcohol, to start to piece together what really did happen to Mrs Westland.
Part classic locked room part Chandler in feel the book does finally spring into life and deliver. But for me it took slightly too long and the plot twists that are unwound so quickly at the end happen before the reader is introduced to the story and as a result lose their ability to interest slightly.
Perhaps the book just hasn't aged as well as some of its contemporaries. In 1935 it might have had the reader gripped but in 2011 it struggles in places and that's not good for any 'hard-boiled' crime novel....more