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Lament for a Maker (Sir John Appleby, #3)
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Buddy reads > Lament for a Maker by Michael Innes - SPOILER Thread

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Susan | 9431 comments Mod
Originally published in 1938, this is the third in the Inspector Appleby mysteries.

Something is amiss at a remote castle isolated in the Scottish Highlands. Raving recluse Ranald Guthrie, much despised laird of Erchany, has been wandering his halls obsessively reciting an old Scottish poem: Timor mortis conturbat me. Fear of death disturbs me…

In the depths of a howling winter night, Guthrie falls to his death from the tower of his castle.

Inspector Appleby is called in to investigate this deadly accident. Immersing himself in the lonesome world in which Guthrie spent his final days, Appleby must separate dreadful truth from chilling legend to determine what really happened on that terrible night.

Was this truly an accident? Was Guthrie driven mad enough to take his own life? Or does something darker lurk within this gothic castle?

Our discussion will open mid-August. Please feel free to post spoilers in this thread.


Jill (dogbotsmum) | 1872 comments This book felt more like a punishment than reading for pleasure ! The first part, found me reading anything but this. It felt the the author had got a Scottish dictionary and was trying to include as many Scottish words and phrases as he could.
The actual story turned out to be quite good, but the road to finding it was just too tedious.


Susan | 9431 comments Mod
I felt much the same, Jill. It was just too difficult to wade through the first part and, by the time I had, I lost interest.


Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 715 comments Oh, that's a pity! I struggled mightily with the first narrator as well (by the way, the author was a Scot so it's probably pretty genuine) but I loved the second narrator and became fully absorbed by the story. Will be interested to hear if any British readers find the Scottish burr easier to read than the Americans do.

I was impressed by how skillfully it was told: each small fact that was not available to the previous narrator placed events in a whole different light. In retrospect, I should have noticed that Ewan alone did not speculate on whodunit and I did suspect him by about three-quarters of the way through (the question of who slipped out of the room seemed to have only one answer), but I enjoyed watching events unfold and wondering if I was right. I enjoy the fact that Innes really makes me pay attention in his novels.


Jill (dogbotsmum) | 1872 comments As I said, I thought the story was good and the build up to it was well done, but the first narrator was just to much hard work. If this had been written in English, then I , as a non-Scot, would have enjoyed it so much more. A reference by the odd Scottish word would have done to ensure the reader knew it was a Scot talking, but this went too far for me.


Rosina (rosinarowantree) | 670 comments Abigail wrote: " Will be interested to hear if any British readers find the Scottish burr easier to read than the Americans do."

There are words I don't know, and some whose meaning is easily worked out from context, but the 'tone' of the writing is easier for me than the heavy weather some seem to have made of it. Possibly because I'm English, living currently close to Scotland, frequently visit Scotland, and am used to the rhythm of Scottish speech.


Jill (dogbotsmum) | 1872 comments I would imagine that very much helps


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8431 comments Mod
Once the first part was over, I thought the story was great, very clever, with several twists that I didn't guess at all. I think you did well to suspect Bell, Abigail - this never struck me at all!

Clues like the ghost and the rumours about the fingers are cleverly woven in. I also enjoyed the black humour of the "learned rats", though I found this completely unbelievable - grabbing hold of a live rat and using it as a sort of homing pigeon!

I did make heavy weather of the opening, and was tempted to give up at times, but I think in retrospect I should have read it faster - I kept reading it at bedtime, finding it hard going and putting it down, so I didn't get into the rhythms of the speech as much as I maybe could have done.

I was also a bit frustrated when a few dialect words cropped up that I couldn't find a translation for, but it didn't affect the sense too much.


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8431 comments Mod
Does anyone remember if Noel was in either of the previous books? I think it was mentioned that he and Appleby already knew each other from a previous case.


Rosina (rosinarowantree) | 670 comments Judy wrote: "Does anyone remember if Noel was in either of the previous books? I think it was mentioned that he and Appleby already knew each other from a previous case."

Noel Gylby was in Hamlet, Revenge!, and the young lady he writes to, Diana Sandys, to whom he is writing, is in the same book.


message 11: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8431 comments Mod
Rosina wrote: "Noel Gylby was in Hamlet, Revenge!, and the young lady he writes to, Diana Sandys, to whom he is writing, is in the same book. "

Thanks, Rosina, I'd forgotten that. I enjoy it when series have the same characters turning up in different settings.


Sandy | 2563 comments Mod
I ended up enjoying this book. I think I made the right decision to read Mr. Bell's narrative as quickly as possible, hoping to get the basics with a minimum of annoyance.

I thought it was very well crafted, with each narrator adding his facts and changing the picture. Each twist in the plot (and there were so many!) seemed quite plausible. Abigail, I'm impressed you worked out the solution. Appleby didn't, Bell had to confess.


Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 715 comments I can't claim to have followed the logic of the crime, it was simply a matter of economy of characters--there were a limited number of options to identify who was the mystery man slipping out of the schoolroom, when everyone who had any business being in the castle was accounted for.


Susan | 9431 comments Mod
Sorry I have not been around much, as I was away for a week. I do agree this was well crafted and I do think it shows how much more artistic license publishers allowed in the past, than they would now. Sometimes, it is fantastic - allowing more individuality. I did feel, in this case, that the opening should have, at least, been shortened... Still, I am prepared to read the next one and give Innes a good try!


message 15: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8431 comments Mod
What did anyone think about the two brothers? I usually find lookalike plots a bit of a cheat, but I thought it was very cleverly done here.

Also, is this a murder at all or a case of self defence?


Rosina (rosinarowantree) | 670 comments Judy wrote: "What did anyone think about the two brothers? I usually find lookalike plots a bit of a cheat, but I thought it was very cleverly done here.

Also, is this a murder at all or a case of self defence?"


Self-defence (or defence of another, which is the same).

Michael Innes does develop a thing about look-alike mysteries, usually involving Australia, where he worked for a time. Some of them work, some of them are spririted if not really believable. The description of Richard Flinders' survival seems to make this more believable (although I'm not sure if such a long testament could be carried by a rat.)


Rosina (rosinarowantree) | 670 comments The form of this story reminds me of An Instance of the Fingerpost, another murder mystery told by different narrators, who tell what they know, each account being inadequate and twisted (or warped) by what they believe to be true.


Sandy | 2563 comments Mod
Judy wrote: "What did anyone think about the two brothers? I usually find lookalike plots a bit of a cheat, but I thought it was very cleverly done here.

Also, is this a murder at all or a case of self defence?"


From what I remember, the only time the Australian brother was mistaken for the local was when he was thought to be a ghost, and that seems reasonable.


Sandy | 2563 comments Mod
Rosina wrote: "The form of this story reminds me of An Instance of the Fingerpost, another murder mystery told by different narrators, who tell what they know, each account being inadequate and twist..."

What did you think of Fingerpost? I own it but in a mass market paperback with tiny print and a tremendous number of pages. Much too intimidating whenever I think of reading it.


message 20: by Rosina (last edited Aug 19, 2018 07:20AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rosina (rosinarowantree) | 670 comments Sandy wrote: "Rosina wrote: "The form of this story reminds me of An Instance of the Fingerpost, another murder mystery told by different narrators, who tell what they know, each account being inade..."

I have that too - and did manage to read it and found it excellent, if rather heavy in some patches. But I've 're-read' it as an unabridged audiobook with four narrators, which at least spares the eyesight although it's less easy to skip the bits that drag ... But then I really like Iain Pears' books, from his brilliant Art Crime series to Arcadia.

Editing and adding: It's available in Kindle - so you would be able to improve the print size, although that won't shorten the book!


Sandy | 2563 comments Mod
Thanks, both kindle and audio have lots of advantages.


Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 715 comments I wasn't bothered by the similarity in appearance between the two brothers, especially after the passage of so many years.

Was Flinders's testament supposed to have been carried by a rat? I had the impression that only the SOS messages were, and the testament was found in the tower with the copies of his medical books. But maybe I was supplying my own more plausible scenario?


Rosina (rosinarowantree) | 670 comments Unlikely as it seems ...
Wedderburn seemed to struggle for words – was forestalled by a startled cry from Sybil Guthrie. There was a scuffle in the darkness; I lowered my lantern and saw that Mrs Hardcastle’s all too potent poison had accounted for yet another rat – a great grey creature that had grotesquely dragged itself to die at our feet. For a moment I thought it was one of Gylby’s learned rats, with its little message attached. Then I saw that it was a rat more learned than that. Clutched in its mouth, as if seized to staunch its final agony, was a small black notebook.

Innes, Michael. Lament for a Maker (Inspector Appleby Book 3) (Kindle Locations 3711-3715). House of Stratus. Kindle Edition.

Then straight into Richard Flinder's lengthy account ...


Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 715 comments How did I block that out?? I guess my brain was more impaired by that eight-hour surgery earlier in the summer than I realized.


message 25: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8431 comments Mod
This bit with the rat having the notebook in its mouth made me giggle, I'll admit - as did the whole "learned rat" element of the book!!


Rosina (rosinarowantree) | 670 comments And the Australian owl ...


message 27: by Jill (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jill (dogbotsmum) | 1872 comments Judy wrote: "This bit with the rat having the notebook in its mouth made me giggle, I'll admit - as did the whole "learned rat" element of the book!!"

Me too.


message 28: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8431 comments Mod
Rosina wrote: "And the Australian owl ..."

I've forgotten about that, Rosina - do reveal!


Sandy | 2563 comments Mod
The brother's explanation for his owl call seemed fairly reasonable to me.


Rosina (rosinarowantree) | 670 comments Judy wrote: "Rosina wrote: "And the Australian owl ..."

I've forgotten about that, Rosina - do reveal!"


From Noel's letter: "Normally I rather dote on owls, but the owlishness of the Erchany variety is something overpowering. I counted several varieties, all hooting depression or despair, and at least one the note of which was strange to me – a high long-drawn-out too-ee that really froze the blood."

And Appleby's question "‘Just this. We’ve had the message of the Learned Rat. But what was the message of the Unfamiliar Owl?’"

(It was Coo-ee)


message 31: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8431 comments Mod
Thank you for the reminder! This had slipped my mind.


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