Thursday, August 11, 2016

Murder Every Monday

Clifford Flush is a founding member of the Asterisk Club--a club specifically for people who have been wrongfully acquitted of at least one murder. That's right: sedate little Mrs. Barratt has disposed of two husbands; Colonel Quincey is an expert "hunter;" The Creaker has done such horrible deeds that even his fellow club members won't let him "talk shop;" Miss Dina Parrish, club secretary, managed to lose her fiance off the edge of a cliff; and Clifford himself was once known as the Balliol Butcher. They have all managed to curb their murderous inclinations for quite some time...that is until Clifford finds himself giving into the urge to try and shove his bridge partner Armitage under a bus. He's unsuccessful (for the first time in his life) and Armitage blackmails him into leaving London.

After discussing the situation with his fellow club members, they all decide to head to the country and start a school for prospective murderers. For quite some time their pupils are are well-behaved little assassins and pass their courses (Grips, Knots, Electricity, Court Etiquette, Alibis, etc) with flying colors--going out into the world to rid themselves of various annoying family members, business associates, and what-have-you. 

Until the latest crop of would-be-murderers come along. And someone has the effrontery to work ahead of schedule and commit a murder on the school premises before the diplomas are handed out. Flush had a feeling that this particular group was going to be troublesome from the moment they arrived and the beastly heat didn't do anything to improve the atmosphere. Will they be able to solve their own home-grown murder without the cops getting wise?

Murder Every Monday (1954) by Pamela Branch was a disappointing read. The blurb on the back promised much more than the book delivered: "Original plots like this are why Carolyn Hart called Branch's humor 'incomparable' and why Dean James of Houston's Murder by the Book described Branch's book as 'British farce at its best.'" I've heard that Branch's earlier books are better--I certainly hope so because this one just didn't do much for me. If "incomparable humor" means that all of the characters speak in apparent non sequiturs, then, yeah, Branch has that covered. If it also means that there's a lot of scenes with one of the female pupils screeching at her supposed lover, then, yeah, we've got that too. 

But, honestly, I have a preference for British mysteries and British humor and I just can't say that I found this funny at all. the premise was interesting (and would be the main reason I picked this reprint up),--after all a murderous school for scoundrels sounded like a nifty idea and some of the descriptions at the beginning did make me think that this might be a funny book. But it didn't deliver. I actually finished this book three days ago and I honestly couldn't tell you many details about it. I've got my bottom line reaction and that's it. [I guess I better start taking more notes as I read....] and a half--all for premise, setting, and situation. Oh...and for one character--Paget, the butler, who isn't all that keen on his employers' occupation.

This fulfills the "Rope/Noose" category on the Golden Vintage Scavenger Hunt card and is my third entry in the 1954 edition of Rich's Crimes of Century over at Past Offenses. If you have any 1954 crime fiction hanging out on your shelves, then come join us!


fredamans said...

I was so disappointed to read this review only to hear your disappointment. I thought, for sure, that this would be a laugh-out-loud get you by the seat of your pants mystery. Guess not.

Bev Hankins said...

That's what I thought too....I hear good things about her earlier ones, so if I come across them I will give them a try.