Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Publish & Be Murdered: Review
Ruth Dudley Edwards is another British mystery wit bent on the satiric skewering of all and sundry. Her adventures, starring former civil servant Robert Amiss and the irrepressible Baroness "Jack" Troutbeck, have managed to skewer the Foreign Office, a Cambridge college, gentlemen's clubs, and clergy. In this outing Edwards sets her sights on the magazine (ahem, "journal") publishing world.
Robert Amiss, often at loose ends and between jobs, finds himself offered the "manager" position at The Wrangler, a journal that has been sponsored by the illustrious Papworth family for generations. The current Lord Papworth is a bit appalled at the amount of money which has been flowing into and immediately out of the Wrangler coffers and hires Amiss to stem the tide. When Amiss walks into the offices of the revered political rag, he finds it hard to believe that he has not stepped into a time machine and come out into a publishing firm of the 1930s. Spending money to save money, he gently leads the inhabitants caught in the "dark ages" of journalism into the more modern light. Computers and fax machines and a little order goes a long way to producing the savings looked for. But just as financial matters begin to come right, there are rumblings of a take-over bid from a tough, rich Austrailan woman, shake-ups in the board of trustees, and the idea that Lord Papworth's son and heir wouldn't mind if dear old dad would get out the way so he can cash in on the take-over. Two deaths quickly make things even more interesting--particularly because we have one victim from each side of the fray. Who could have reason to murder them both? Or do we have two murderers?
The entire book is worth it just for the send up of old-fashioned noblisse oblige, epitomized by Lord Papworth, and old-fashioned snobbery and self-preservation, epitomized by....wait for it....Mr. Lambie Crump, editor of The Wrangler. Dear old Lambie spends the all of his life (which is much shorter than anticipated) speaking of himself in the third person and making sure that all the best goodies come his way. But is that truly a reason for someone to show him a quick exit? The entire staff of the journal is a hoot and not to be missed. Stereotypes, to be sure, but, oh what fun they are! Mix that with a very decent mystery and you have the makings of a very good read, indeed.
One little quibble. After introducing us to such marvelous characters on staff at the journal...very distinct and recognizable types from the dragon lady at the front desk to the loyal clerk who's been there for donkey's years to the inevitable young and eager office boy, Edwards, for some inexplicable reason, takes the dragon lady and makes her a sudden and complete convert to Islam. This move in no way furthers the story and doesn't even add to the humor involved. I really can't see a point. If anyone else reads this and can come up with a solution to that mystery, I'd love to hear it. Three and a half stars.