Friday, December 29, 2017

The Corpse in the Snowman: Review

PR: I like Mr. Strangeways. He's my best policeman.
JR: He isn't a policeman, you spotted pard. He's a private impersonator.
PR: What's that?
JR: It's--well, it's a private impersonator., like Sherlock Holmes. He puts on a false beard and tracks the criminal to his lair when the police are baffled.
~Priscilla and John Restorick 
The Corpse in the Snowman (1941) by Nicholas Blake (pp 3-4)

Unfortunately, the title gives away a huge plot point--but that's not too terribly awful because we learn about the dead body in the snowman in the very first chapter...we just don't know who it is. 

Priscilla and John Restorick are gazing out their nursery window at the glorious snowman that they and their beloved uncle had built several weeks ago when the great snow which was now melting had covered the countryside. In fact, Queen Victoria (as the snowman had been fashioned) was looking a bit worse for wear herself. When Priscilla returns later (after a piano lesson), the children return to the window and stare in fascinated horror as Queen Victoria's face slides right away...leaving another face behind it.

The story then goes into flash-back mode, taking the reader back to the days just before Christmas when the Restorick family and friends gathered in the Bishop's Room, said to be haunted, to see if they might dredge up a ghost. The family cat, Scribbles, behaves very oddly--acting as though she might have seen something otherworldly and Clarissa Cavendish, cousin to Nigel Strangeways' wife and who has witnessed the scene, feels that something dangerous is going on. She invites Nigel and Georgia to stay with her and investigate. Nigel is to assume the character of a dabbler in the psychic arts and "investigate" the strange disturbance in the haunted room.

But before Nigel can make much headway, Elizabeth Restorick, wanton daughter of the house, is found dead, apparently of suicide. He suspects murder and finds that in this seemingly mild country house there are motives aplenty--from money to sex to drugs. And plenty of suspects as well--from the doctor who was supposedly curing her of a drug habit to a "friend" who was more like a jealous rival to the brother and sister-in-law who could definitely use the money Elizabeth left behind. Nigel and Inspector Blount, who is assigned to the case, discover a twisted story of revenge running through the plot.

Murder for Christmas is always an interesting twist for the holidays and Nicholas Blake provides a nice country house murder as a yuletide present with plenty of red herrings and clues to go round. A highly enjoyable winter read. ★★★★

More quotes:
What did I tell you? Nobody could live in a perfect house like that and keep their insanity.
~Georgia Strangeways (15)

AR: The trouble about detective novelists is that they shirk the real problem.
GS: The real problem? 
AR: The problem of evil. That's the only really interesting thing about crime. Your ordinary four-a-penny criminals, who steal because they find it the easiest way to make a living, who murder for gain or out of sheer exasperation--they're of no interest. And the criminal in the average detective story is duller still, a mere kingpin to hold together an intricate, artificial plot, the major premises of an argument that leads nowhere. But what--what about the man who revels in evil? The man or woman whose very existence seems to depend upon the power to hurt or degrade others?
~Andrew Restorick; Georgia Strangeways (40)

When the strong cut up rough, we can be pretty sure--if we know them at all--what lines they'll work on. But when the weak become aggressive, there's hell to pay: it's like being suddenly attacked by a lunatic, a blind man, or a total stranger--one simply can't plot out their course or anticipate their next move; they probably don't know it themselves. (177)

(Actually finished on 12/20/17. This fulfills the "Cigarette" category in the Golden Vintage Scavenger Hunt.)

1 comment:

Tarissa said...

Oh. My Goodness. A skeleton inside of a snowman. Sounds horrific.

I did like that quote about a private impersonator. Haha!

Happy New Year!