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An English Murder
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Buddy reads > An English Murder by Cyril Hare - SPOILER Thread

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Susan | 9643 comments Mod
The snow is thick, the phone line is down, and no one is getting in or out of Warbeck Hall. With friends and family gathered round the fire, all should be set for a perfect Christmas, but as the bells chime midnight, a mysterious murder takes place.

Who can be responsible? The scorned young lover? The lord's passed-over cousin? The social climbing politician's wife? The Czech history professor? The obsequious butler? And perhaps the real question is: can any of them survive long enough to tell the tale?

First published in 1951, this is a Golden Age setting, but set in a time period when 'Big Houses,' were becoming hard to keep up and this is definitely a theme within the novel. An unsettled, post-war, time and an author, Cyril Hare, that we have not read in the group before. Here is an article about the author: http://www.martinedwardsbooks.com/cyr...
This is his only attempt at a country house murder and we look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Please feel free to post spoilers in this thread.


Roman Clodia | 758 comments Did anyone else think Dr Bottwind (is that his name?) was a take-off of Poirot? Both make a play of their 'foreigness' (Poirot when it suits him!) yet it's the professor who knows most about English constitutional history.

That jarring moment at the start when we realise that the prof has survived the Holocaust reminded me how overt politics tends to get overlooked in vintage mysteries to keep them cosy, but also that Poirot was himself a refugee in the first book.

I was also amused that the police bodyguard kept wanting to hand the investigation over to a real detective, again subverting the genre.

The mystery was a bit thin but the late (1950s?) response to an earlier literary mode interested me.


Susan | 9643 comments Mod
You make a good point about politics being overlooked in many vintage mysteries. I think, as we have said before, the GA British mysteries tended to draw a veil over anything too bloodthirsty, after WWI and this seemed to continue with a reluctance to mention politics. Odd, really, in such a time of political extremes and change. We have the Mosley like political leader as well as the holocaust survivor. As you say, RC, Poirot was also a refugee in the first book.


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8610 comments Mod
I definitely thought there was some spoofing of the genre's assumptions at times, for instance when Dr Bottwink (you were almost right about his name, RC!) suddenly says how glad they must be that they have invited him, since he is the ideal culprit, as he isn't a member of the family and isn't even English.

I think this is possibly Hare having a pop at any detective story authors who might be tempted to choose their murderer on that sort of basis.

Robert is absolutely awful, isn't he - I felt like jumping into the book and murdering him myself if I had to put up with much more of him! There are certainly plenty of people with motives.


Rosina (rosinarowantree) | 696 comments Robert is more Roderick Spode than Oswald Mosley, though. The jumpers, neatly folded and put away ...


Roman Clodia | 758 comments He is awful - but I was surprised to have been wrong-footed over the butler's daughter, that he'd already married her. I do love it when an author pulls off a trick like that!


Susan | 9643 comments Mod
Yes, I assumed he had got her daughter pregnant. That was a clever twist.


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Sue (mrskipling) | 250 comments I hadn't thought of the similarities with Poirot but it's a good point. Although Bottwink was far more comfortable in that cold, damp house that our Hercule would ever have been. He would no doubt have been complaining about the lack of central heating!

I thought the racism was more overt in this book than most GA stories. It made me very uncomfortable even though it didn't appear very often. I agree Judy that it was a nice twist for Bottwink to say openly that he was the scapegoat foreigner. I had been a bit suspicious actually when Camilla kept asking him to stay when he was so keen to leave the room and had wondered myself of they were setting him up.

I think I enjoyed the character of Briggs most. Poor man. He had gone from working in one of England's great houses with a full staff to having to cover many other roles than his own as staff numbers were cut. Then he finds that his daughter has married the Lord-to-be and is now mother of the new Lord. He doesn't know whether he's on foot or horseback. The world order has turned upside down for him and he doesn't know quite how to behave any more. That must have been happening all across the country actually, not for such dramatic reasons of course, but just generally because the classes became less separated. Miss Marple often talks of how difficult it is to get maids, doesn't she, so she takes girls from the orphanage and trains them up, but then they always leave for a better job once they have experience.


Roman Clodia | 758 comments Haha Sue, Poirot certainly wouldn't have survived the cold!

I couldn't understand for a second how nice Camilla could be in love with nasty Robert - to be a fascist after the war and the revelation of the camps was even more pernicious.

I loved the clue of William Pitt even though I had no idea what the answer was. It reminded me of Envious Casca where the biography of Empress Sissi was hidden because it contained a clue to the murder.


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Sue (mrskipling) | 250 comments Roman Clodia wrote: "I loved the clue of William Pitt even though I had no idea what the answer was. ..."

Yes it's not surprising it was written by a lawyer! Clever idea.


Susan | 9643 comments Mod
I suppose Camilla loved him as a young girl. It was almost as though she overlooked his politics, although, surely, that must have been harder to do after the war. If you think of Mosley, that was unpleasant, but the actual reality of what happened - what fascism led to - could hardly be ignored post-WWII.

I read an interesting book about the spymaster, Maxwell Knight, who had gone undercover in both fascist and communist organisations. It is thought he was the one who warned William Joyce (Lord Haw-Haw) that he was about to be arrested, leading him to flee to Germany. So, I suppose personal relationships do exist, regardless of politics. Considering what happened, of course, William Joyce would have probably been better off being interned.


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Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8610 comments Mod
Yes, I couldn’t believe in Camilla loving Robert either - and agree his fascism is all the more appalling after the war.


Frances (francesab) | 364 comments Roman Clodia wrote: "That jarring moment at the start when we realise that the prof has survived the Holocaust reminded me how overt politics tends to get overlooked in vintage mysteries to keep them cosy, but also that Poirot was himself a refugee in the first book.
."


Yes, and both Hastings and Holmes' Watson have been invalided out from the army but that fact is rarely mentioned.


Frances (francesab) | 364 comments Judy wrote: "Yes, I couldn’t believe in Camilla loving Robert either - and agree his fascism is all the more appalling after the war."

I also assumed it was affection rooted in earlier times together, and that perhaps she was cooling on him given his politics and her apparently more accepting nature (I think she was the one that was kind to Bottwink).

I agreed that poor Briggs was quite amusing-he was so annoyed with his daughter for marrying "above her station" and I'm sure was terrified about what Robert's father would say when he heard.


Susan | 9643 comments Mod
It was an interesting take on a less clearly defined time. Do we think that Robert was interested in Camilla, if he had not been married to Susan?


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Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8610 comments Mod
Frances wrote: "I agreed that poor Briggs was quite amusing-he was so annoyed with his daughter for marrying "above her station" and I'm sure was terrified about what Robert's father would say when he heard...."

Despite Briggs being annoyed for his daughter for marrying above her station, I thought it seemed as if it he had forced Robert to marry her after getting her pregnant!

When he keeps accusing him of not acting like a gentleman early on, I assume he wants him to acknowledge the marriage rather than continuing to hide her in the background.


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Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8610 comments Mod
Susan wrote: "It was an interesting take on a less clearly defined time. Do we think that Robert was interested in Camilla, if he had not been married to Susan?"

He is clearly attracted to her, but I don't think there's any sign of him really caring for either of them.


Susan | 9643 comments Mod
I would agree - it seemed to me that Briggs forced the marriage. Or perhaps Susan was involved. She seemed a quite forceful young woman!


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