Thursday, July 25, 2013

Why Shoot a Butler?

Why Shoot a Butler?
by Georgette Heyer

Publisher's Blurb:
Every family has secrets, but the Fountains' are turning deadly… 

On a dark night, along a lonely country road, barrister Frank Amberley stops to help a young lady in distress and discovers a sports car with a corpse behind the wheel. The girl protests her innocence, and Amberley believes her—at least until he gets drawn into the mystery and the clues incriminating Shirley Brown begin to add up…

In an English country-house murder mystery with a twist, it's the butler who's the victim, every clue complicates the puzzle, and the bumbling police are well-meaning but completely baffled. Fortunately, in ferreting out a desperate killer, amateur sleuth Amberley is as brilliant as he is arrogant, but this time he's not sure he wants to know the truth…
My Reaction:
I seem to find all of Georgette Heyer's mysteries enjoyable reading, and this was no exception.  It's only a very light mystery, but the reading was (overall) a pleasant experience, with the requisite dash of romance that you'd expect from this author.

More Specifics:
-- "After all, why shoot a butler?  Where's the point?"  One character voices the book's title, and it seems to be a popular opinion among the entire cast of characters.  A bit arrogant, don't you think?  Why shoot a (mere, humble, boring) butler?  Surely even a lowly butler has his own life and his own secrets-- and is every bit as capable of making an enemy as the lords and ladies he serves.

--  "...sort of fellow who drinks his bath water.  Damned bad-tempered."  What in the... I don't know what this means, really.  Well, based on the "bad-tempered" part I can make a guess, but the drinking his bath water... Weird.   Where does that come from?

-- Collins is described as looking like "a typical villain"-- and for whatever reason, I kept picturing him looking like Blackadder (Rowan Atkinson).  I guess Blackadder does have some fairly villainous characteristics, so that fits.

-- At times, Anthony feels very Bertie Woosterish, which is always nice in a character.  (g)

"But you are not an unbalanced person.  This youth is."
"What-ho!" said Anthony, gratified.  "The old brainbox full of grey matter, eh?"
"I didn't say that," Amberley answered.  "There's a difference between the unbalanced and the merely feeble-minded."
 --  It feels odd when Amberley is addressed as "Frank".  He should never be called by his first name.  (Same thing goes for Mr. Darcy in P&P.)  Speaking of Amberley, he would be insufferable in real life.  As a character in a book, I can put up with him, though.

-- "...why doesn't she have him put into one of these homes you read about where they set out to cure people of wanting liquor?  Not but what that does seem a crool sort of thing to do, but there you are!  What can you do for such a young boozer?" 

--  So the British spell "skeptical" with a "c"!  "Sceptical" just looks wrong.

--  Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy.  Sounds like a cheerful volume to have on the bedside table!  Also mentioned:  Disraeli's Curiosities of Literature, which is probably much less interesting than it sounds.

--  "I have been looking over your books.  My dear sir, are you aware that they are all arranged according to size?"  Bwahahahaha!  Well, and what of that?!

--  This was definitely one of those mysteries where the reader and the author are in on a lot of secrets that elude most of the characters for much of the book-- the brilliant Amberley being the exception, most of the time.

-- "...woman with a face like the back of a cab."

--  Shirley asks, "He's rather an uncompromising person, isn't he?" ...and his aunt replies, "But he's so good to animals, my dear."  Ha!  ...But yes, that is a good sign.

--  "Well, I'll thank you to remember that this ain't Daytona Beach, sir."  How long have they been racing on Daytona Beach?  I guess it's been a while!

--  There's quite a bit of violence and death in this book, for a "gentle"/old-fashioned mystery.  Not much happens "on screen", and the gory details are mostly passed over, though.

-- Amberley's looooong explanation scene seems to drag a bit.