Ten Little Herrings by L.C. Tyler – An Elsie and Ethelred Mystery from a French hotel

Ten Little Herrings: Amazon.co.uk: L. C. Tyler: 9780230714670: Books

 

Red herrings in murder mystery novels are par for the course – but in this book they are everywhere. That, and chocolate, and stamp collectors. The second Elsie and Ethelred novel, of a contemporary pair of inept investigators who seem to attract trouble, features a select group of potential suspects for murder and possibly other crimes. When Elsie turns up looking for Ethelred after she technically kills him, she arrives in a small seedy hotel in a small French town, at the end of a stamp fair. In a surreal situation most of the guests in the hotel are stamp collectors, but it seems that several have other, possibly murderous priorities. This comedy mystery novel, the second in the series, features a novelist called Ethelred and his literary agent, Elsie. I believe this would work as a standalone novel, assuming that the reader understood the sense of humour behind the main characters’ preoccupations. An unusual and humourous book, it has elements of farce and moments of near suspense, as the hapless pair are effectively trapped in the hotel.

 

Ethelred disappeared at the end of the first novel, and in this book Elsie has cancelled his bank cards as part of dealing with his affairs and collecting his royalties. Managing to discover where he is, she turns up at the hotel only to find Ethelred among assorted guests including a dubious Russian businessman, a younger man called Gold, “the weaselly Mr Herbert Proctor” and a perfect family of unknown nationality. The other guests, mainly men, have little conversation, but it is understood that they are all interested in stamps, except a traveller who apparently only wanted to stay one night.  When a guest is murdered, everyone is under suspicion. Elsie is obsessed with chocolate and has a touching belief in her investigative powers while, she fondly believes, attracting men with her sense of style. Being trapped in the hotel indefinitely while the police investigate the murder means that she cannot go and buy chocolate, and as she says in one of her chapters, written from her point of view, “There’s not much you can do in a room without chocolate”.  Her interest in the crime combined with her desire for chocolate means that she gets involved in the slightly strange goings on in the hotel and the surrounding area. Ethelred meanwhile is preoccupied with his most recent past and immediate future in a rather confused way; he doesn’t seem very interested in the crime, and his professional interest in writing mystery novels is a little dismissed in his chapters as he does not want to write anymore Fairfax novels. He does, however, write about the nature of murder and the statistical truths of how real murders happen, concluding “Murderers include the most unlikely people.You’d never spot one in the street. Or in a hotel.” His considerations are in contrast with Elsie’s flights of fantasy to great effect, as their pool of suspects grows smaller and another consideration appears.

 

There is humour in every part of this book, from the slightly absurd characters in the hotel to the situations Elsie in particular finds herself in, as she bustles around the hotel, avoiding certain people and seeking a version of the truth. Revelations and incidents mount up in this episode in a popular series. I really enjoyed this very entertaining book. 

 

This book is certainly in contrast with the British Library Crime Classics I often review, as well as the Dean Street Press republished crime novels from the twentieth century. Not that outrageous investigators are unknown in other novels, and chocolate is certainly not the most surprising vice. Anyway, this is quite a cheerful murder mystery if that is possible, and adds to my variety of reading. I have some later books in the series, but have set Northernvicar onto finding the next book…

The Herring Seller’s Apprentice by L.C. Tyler – A funny book of murder, writing and mayhem

The Herring Seller's Apprentice (Herring Mysteries Book 1) eBook ...

 

Ethelred Tressider is a writer. In a way, he is three writers, Peter Fielding, J.R. Elliot, and Amanda Collins. All three have one agent, Ms Elise Thirkettle, who is always interested in Ethelred, but is far more obsessed with chocolate. Both are content in their way, alone but in contact if only so Elise can cajole, persuade and generally pressure him into producing books for sale and therefore commission. These two characters are the leads in a comedy murder mystery from 2007. To begin with it is a missing person hunt, as Geraldine, Ethelred’s ex wife, appears to have disappeared. Fairfax, Ethelred/ Peter’s police character, is refusing to be written, except in strange little extracts which involve various literary characters from Winne the Pooh to P.G. Wodehouse. As the novel proceeds, Elise takes over the narration of the story from Ethelred, and the lively story continues in a unique and very funny way. A body, Ethelred’s autobiographical tales and various people connected with the memorable Geraldine and Elise’s reflections on what is really going on makes for a lively novel, the first in a series of books by L.C. Tyler. I really enjoyed this engaging book, and am looking forward to subsequent novels in the series.

 

The book opens with Ethelred stating that “I have always been a writer” and listing his various authorial aliases. Peter Fielding writes of Fairfax, a policeman who is nearing retirement, JR Elliot writes of a character in the time of Richard II, and Amanda  Collins who writes modern romance. Elise has arrived at Ethelred’s house to read his latest submission, hoping that his recent stay in France has fuelled his creative impulses. She is just informing that far from being a literary masterpiece as he hopes, his latest work is rubbish ( which she puts more basically)  when a police officer turns up to inform Ethelred  that Geraldine’s hire car has been found abandoned locally.  Ethelred is very informative about his separation from his ex wife and her subsequent relationship with Rupert Mackinnon, now ended it transpires, which Rupert confirms when he turns up at Ethelred’s house. It is assumed that Geraldine, with her “perpetual money troubles”, has committed suicide having left a note. When a body is discovered, Ethelred duly identifies it as Geraldine, and begins the process of sorting out her affairs. It seems that everyone, excluding Ethelred, has invested money with her, which has disappeared. Elsie realises that he will not get down to writing his next book until everything is sorted out, so gets involved in investigating what really happens while consuming heavy amounts of chocolate of course.

 

This is an unusual, funny and really well written book. It casts a cynical look at the progress of writers and a possible relationship with agents, though I suspect Elsie is completely fictional. It is a clever and humourous book which calls in lots of literary references and the sort of investigations in a criminal matter which may well have been attempted in a pre internet world. I really enjoyed its unusual storyline and the robust dialogue between the main characters. I recommend this book as a fun read with some serious themes, well handled. It looks towards subsequent books, and has many strengths on its own.   

 

This is a very different book from yesterday’s Barbara Pym post, but both are quite funny and light in a way. They both attempt to reflect a version of contemporary life in their time. All part of my attempt to offer a wide variety of reviews to distract and tempt people into trying new authors and even genres of book.