Thursday, October 14, 2010

Death in the Stocks, Georgette Heyer

Author: Georgette Heyer
Published: 2009 (reprint), Sourcebooks, originally 1935
Category: Mystery
Rating: 5/10

I have been steadily reading Heyer books (with great delight) since I discovered her a few years ago. She has a huge backlist, which consists of historical romances, mysteries, and historical fiction. The romances, of course, are my favorites -- but I'm running out of new ones to read! So, I picked up this mystery when I saw the pretty re-issued edition by Sourcebooks.

Andrew Vereker is found dead, his corpse carefully arranged so he's sitting in the stocks on the green of some little English village. The police soon have more suspects than they can handle: the nephew who is heir to Vereker's fortune, a corrupt employee who was cooking the books, a mysterious stranger who was seen fighting with Vereker before his death. Everyone seems to be lying about where they were the night of the murder, and everyone seems to have hated the deceased.

I was sadly disappointed by this book. For one thing, I totally guessed who "done it" really early in the book, which either means I'm really clever or it was obvious. I think it's the latter, because I never know who the murderer is when reading mysteries. I'm nearly always surprised in the end. My second reason for not liking the book: I found all the characters extremely annoying. They struck me as lazy, spoiled, selfish, snobby upper-class Brits and I didn't like them. A couple of people grew on me toward the end, but it was waaaay too long coming.

The only saving grace for me was the intelligent, witty dialogue, which is classic Heyer. I'm undecided whether I want to try any more Heyer mysteries. Anyone have any advice? There are a couple of her romances that I haven't read yet -- will definitely have to track them down.


Marg said...

I have only read one of her mysteries, and I was a little underwhelmed by it. I will give them another go, but not yet.

Li said...

Hey, new look!

I've to confess something about Heyer's mysteries - when I first read them, I was all "meh" and ended up giving them away. Then I re-read one for some reason, and ended up re-buying all of them again... I know.

I think it's an expectations thing - like you, when I first read them, I was all absorbed in her romances, and I was expecting her mysteries to be in a similar vein. But they're not, and I think when I came back to them, it had been a while since I had read a Heyer romance, and so I appreciated them from a different angle. I like her characterisation very much - which probably doesn't help if you don't like them, I admit!

It's been a while since I read them, so can't remember titles, maybe "No Wind of Blame"? I still can't get through "Penhallow" though (very unlikeable characters and just dull, IMO), so definitely do not rec this one.

Which of her romances have you not read yet?

Jennie said...

Li -- I can see what you mean. I was wanting something in the style of her romances, which isn't really fair. :)

I haven't read: Masqueraders, Beauvallet, Unknown Ajax, Toll Gate, and Black Sheep (I think -- some of them I've forgotten a bit).

Best Romance Novels said...

I have not read any of Heyer's mysteries. I have mostly read her romance novels, which are great. Luckily her dialogue is always clever and witty. Thanks for the review!

Marianne McA said...

Hey! I didn't realise you were blogging again. Happy Dance.

As for the mysteries, yes, they're not like her romances, but I do enjoy them. My favourites would be Why Shoot a Butler?, Duplicate Death, The Unfinished Clue, and A Blunt Instrument. If you're looking for sympathetic characters in the romance part, I'd go with The Unfinished Clue, where the detective is also the hero. (The hero and heroine in 'Why Shoot a Butler?' are both blunt beyond the point of rudeness - that's why their relationship is fun, really.)

I agree with Li about Penhallow. (Also, personally, I wouldn't bother with Envious Casca.)

Of the Romances you haven't read - The Toll Gate and Unknown Ajax are quite alike really - physically big heroes who are deceptively easy-going, fall in love at first sight and stay in tricky situations for the heroine's sake. If you like one, you'll like the other. If you liked Lady of Quality, you'll like Black Sheep - they're fairly similar.

Jennie said...

Hi Marianne!

Thanks for the Heyer tips! I will put The Unfinished Clue on my list of books to read -- I do like mysteries, and I love Heyer's writing style, so I should definitely give her mysteries another shot sometime.

I'm sure I'll get to all her romances -- though these remaining ones seem like the hardest to find.

Li said...

I love Masqueraders - it's one of the Heyers I re-read every now and again. And quite liked Black Sheep as well, IIRC.

Arrow re-released all her books a few years back in the UK, so I think I have the full set of Heyer books. It did take some patience though...