This book is brilliant. It makes its vast scope coherent, explains the complex issues involved clearly, retains detail and personal interest to make the story riveting from both a macro and micro level. The reader has the two most important attributes of a reader-his voice does not grate and HE KNOWS HIS MATERIAL. Can not recommend this book too highly.
This book will not be for everyone. I believe it was first published in 1955 but it reads like something much older, it's aesthetic seems to be 1930's, or even earlier. I love that, but please be warned that it moves slowly, that there is much conversation and little action, and that motivations appear at least on first reading to be wildly different in this book than they are in modern American life. However, as is often the case with Miss Silver, there are aspects of this close examination of people and their relationships and the results of their choices that are just as relevant and timely today as they were when they were written.
Miss Silver, the series sleuth, is the ultimate working lady (lady being the operative word) and she reminds me very much of my grandmother. I adore her for her reserve, her dowdy attire, her resistance to familiarity, her quiet independence, compassion, and shrewd insight. She's a version of Miss Marple (Agatha Christie) and Miss Climpson (Dorothy Sayers) and I love all these independent, intrepid, elderly spinster sleuths with their subtle social camouflage that causes wrongdoers not to take them seriously until it is far too late. Miss Silver is portrayed with less humor than either of the other two ladies but she is a sister under the skin all the same, being a quietly attired and unstoppable force of nature.
I find Patricia Wentworth to be a uniquely period writer who's insights are still relevant today, and I love to spend time with Miss Silver from time to time, especially when life gets chaotic and I need a sense of continuity. I'm thrilled that Audible is brining the entire list to audio book form, and thrilled that Diana Bishop is reading them all, I can't imagine Miss Silver read by anyone else. What a treat!
I'm not answering these questions Audible asks, I'm just writing my review.
SPOILERS IN HERE!! SPOILER ALERT!!! In discussing the book you may think I reveal too much if you don't like to know anything about it!! SPOILERS!!
I have read in discussions of Margery Allingham that this is her masterpiece; it is certainly very different from any of her other books that I have encountered so far. Though there are some mysteries in this book, and a number of murders, it isn't really a murder mystery as I see it. Campion is of course in it, but it's not really about him, either. It seems to me to be a meditation on the second world war, and upon loss and grieving and change and how to accomplish these things well (or poorly). Also, and this grows as the story continues, it seems to be a meditation on the nature of good and evil, and upon what God is and what God isn't and most of all what a person becomes when God is lost to them. It's not surprising that someone who was born in 1904 in England would have thought extensively about these things, and their thinking about those points always speaks deeply to me, even though I was born in 1961 in the United States.
There is a scene in the second half of the book, where Meg's father (a minister of the church) goes deliberately out to talk to the murderer. This action on his part is certainly distressing from a pragmatic point of view, but that's part of the point of the story if the story is more than a murder mystery. He believes that he is called to do so by God in order to offer salvation to the murderer, and what he says to the murderer about the path he (the murderer) is on I found to be greatly moving. I also found the final scenes at Sur la Mer extremely moving for the same reason (though more so the second time I listened to it, because the first time I was too anxious to find out what would happen to think deeply about what Allingham was really trying to say.) This is a book I will listen to more than once, especially the second half, for what Allingham has to say about spirit and loss and redemption and faith, rather than because it's a comforting golden age mystery. It's not a preachy book, but I think it has to be understood from the point of view of a discussion of what's real and what's not, rather than as a simple murder mystery. (I'm not advocating what the old man did, either, it usually turns out more like the girl in Patch Adams than how it did in this book when we are talking about real life it seems to me, but I'm just saying that it has a function as part of the philosophical discussion Allingham is illustrating and also of course, people thought differently in a different time and place).
As always, I like the reader. I think he has a remarkable facility for indicating different characters clearly, I had to laugh when I read another review that said they found the difference between Campion and Luke wasn't clear. To me it seems SO clear, Campions voice is clearly older, deeper, not hoarse, more precise, and with a completely different accent (being aristocratic rather than working class, like Luke). In general I feel Thorpe has done a brilliant job with these books as I listen my way through all of them, and since I didn't like Frances Mathew's readings, it's a blessed relief to me not to have to put up with him in order to get unabridged Margery Allingham. I also noticed that as the series is going on and Campion is getting older, Thorpe is making Campion's voice deeper with time, which is a thing that does actually happen with age. This is the kind of attention to detail and fidelity to the writer that is unusual in a reader, and that I so appreciate about Thorpe.
I like David Thorpe as reader for these books much better than Frances Matthews. I wrote a small novel about why in my review of, "The Crime at Black Dudley" and I will just add to it by saying that I think he's even better here than he was there, and that he reads Campion AS ALLINGHAM WROTE HIM which is what I like in a reader. Allingham was finding her range with this story, and it's got some splendid scenes in it, a great story line, and a lovely supernatural element as well. Plus, it introduces Lugg, Campions right hand man and one of my favorite characters in fiction. I highly recommend this both for the story and the fact that is is well read.
I'm fond of the relationship between Lugg and the butler at the Gyrth estate. I also enjoy the way this one starts,with the homeless man mysteriously summoned to Campions flat in an….unusual… way
Always very fond of Lugg.
It didn't make me cry, but the dialog made me laugh more than once. It's witty and sharp and has the inimitable dry British wit that I love.
If you love Golden Age mysteries, you will probably enjoy this.
I am not going to answer all these questions, I'm just going to write my review. I am writing this review primarily in defense of the narrator, who I think does a very good job, and as of my writing there are nothing but complaints about him in the written reviews posted. He does Margery Allingham the courtesy of reading her work the way she wrote it, and I appreciate that in a narrator. I did not like the narration of Frances Mathews, who read the only unabridged versions of Allingham on Audible prior to the full series coming out with David Thorpe reading, and I think Thorpe is much better.
Some have complained that in this book, Campion has an annoying, high pitched voice as read by Thorpe. Allingham tells us clearly in this book, on multiple occasions, that Campions voice is annoying, high pitched, and falsetto and Thorpe has the integrity and courage to read the character the way Allingham wrote him. Additionally, I find it annoying in some readers when they aren't familiar enough with the work to give the lines of dialog that occur before the explanations of them the correct emotional tone, an error Thorpe never makes. An example of the kind of thing I mean is a character will say, "I'm coming back now" and the reader will read it in a cheery tone of voice, and then the next line in the book is "he said sadly", and there we are with the jolt of a line read incorrectly by a reader that didn't do his or her homework and prepare properly for reading the the story. Thorpe has done his homework, he doesn't' make mistakes like this, his delivery is completely true to what Allingham meant it to be. There is no higher tribute a reader can pay to an author and it's one as a listener I REALLY appreciate, especially when I am fond of an author as I am of Allingham. Also, Thorpe reads with energy and sounds as though he is enjoying and appreciating the story as he reads it, and finally and perhaps most importantly, he GETS THE JOKES and reads the text in such a way that we can get them too. There is nothing sadder with these lovely examples of English humor than a reader who doesn't get the subtle humor and ruins it for the listener by reading it wrong. Allingham has some very funny lines, and Thorpe gets them all perfectly.
I do concede that he's not very good at country accents, and there is a "yokel" character in this book that has quite a few lines and is really a bit hard to take overall what with the bad accent and the unfortunate tone of voice used as well, but still I feel he does a great job overall for the reasons mentioned above, and does not deserve the hammering he's been taking here in the review section.
However, I've listened to almost the entire series now, and this is my least favorite, so all but the truly obsessed should probably skip this one and move on to the next in the series (Gyrth Challice) as a start. This book is clearly not the best Allingham has written by a long shot, though it's interesting to have because it IS the first in the series, and Campion was not meant to be the hero when she started writing, the series hero was meant to be the Doctor Abbershaw. If you do decide to start with this one, you can see why Campion became the series hero instead, he's far and away the character with the most pep, humor, interest, and energy, and a great deal smarter than the doc as well.
Overall I gave both the book and the performance four stars for the problems mentioned above, the rest of the series gets five stars for performance and story from me. Thorpe does tone down the falsetto voice on Campion as he goes on with the series, since Allingham does not continue to insist on it, and I find this fidelity to the author completely admirable in a reader.
Yes, if they like cozy, and cheering tales. I love these books because they are so very humane, very funny in the dry British way that I enjoy, and very wise. I also enjoy the way Miss Read ties the story of the people into their surroundings; her love of the beauty of the countryside is skillfully communicated. I personally have never read anyone other than Collette who has such a love the natural world and paints it so beautifully for the reader. Most of all I find these books comforting. Nellie Piggot is one of my favorite characters, and she comes to a good place in this book, which I find most satisfying.
In a way, it has some of the flavor of some of the Agatha Christies, in that it is so sensible. It's not a mystery, of course, and there really aren't any very unpleasant characters, but it has some of the basic commonsensical good temper that Christie can communicate.
LOVE Gwen Watford, she is absolutely the perfect person to read these books. If you want to see Gwen Watford having a good time, by the way, take a look at the Joan Hickson version of "The Mirror Cracked" (made in the 80's) and you will be able to enjoy two wonderful actresses having a splendid time, they are an absolute riot together, and I never fail to enjoy it!
I don't know what a tag line is.
If you want to feel better about the world and humanity, you can not go wrong with the Miss Read books. They are kind, wise, funny, smart, beautifully crafted, and deeply engaging. If you want fast paced action, violence, sex, drugs, and rock and roll-steer clear!
Among my favorites
There are myriad quotes worth remembering, the first that I recall was something about the writing of Henry James being appropriate for classification as a dangerous narcotic because of it's soporific qualities. The story is rich with such gems.
Never have listened to Philip Bird recordings before, but plan to listen to many more. Wonderful, wonderful reader. Absolutely made all the difference to me. In fact, I have been trying to like Edmund Crispin off and on for some time. People who like the kinds of books I do (Christie, Marsh, Sayers, Innes, etc) always seem to like Crispin as well, and yet I could not enjoy either The Gilded Fly, or the Moving (Movable? Can't remember) Toyshop. I now believe it was because I had not heard Philip Bird narrate them. Some authors are better heard aloud, and some are better read in print, of course, but additionally (as all devoted audio book readers know) a narrator can make or break a story in a profound way. What Philip Bird has done for me is make this book come alive and bring out the kindness of Crispin's outlook, which is subtle, and makes all the difference to me. He might even be able to save Gladys Mitchell for me if given the chance, who knows? Plus-so very important- he gets all the jokes, and makes sure they are delivered correctly. CRUCIAL, especially to a book like this where the humor is subtle as well, and could easily be missed by a reader not familiar with the material or not interested enough to take the time to understand it. On a scale of 1-5 I give the team of Crispin and Bird an 11!!!
I did, and then I listened to it again.
The maze story from M. R. James "Mr Humphreys and His Inheritance" makes a FABULOUS and most disturbing appearance towards the end of this book. Lovely!!!
Other Margery Allinghams. She is unique, and can't really be compared with other writers in my opinion,though she is more like other golden age writers than modern crime fiction.
I think Philip Franks is an excellent reader. I did not find that he spoke too fast to be understood, as some other reviews complain, in fact I found his reading speed and enunciation to be excellent and just to my taste. Additionally, I really enjoyed the fact that he actually gets Allingham, knows his material, and puts the proper emphasis and emotional content into the characters dialog. It is MOST unfortunate that he only reads the abridged versions of Allingham, because In general I am opposed to abridged books, and especially in the case of an author like Allingham who I listen to primarily for the beauty of her prose. It seems an absolute outrage to me to abridge these stories, and it's particularly annoying because the reader who reads the unabridged versions available here is not nearly as good. I wish an unabridged version of, "The Beckoning Lady" read by Phillip Franks was available!
Margery Allingham is not my favorite golden age author, however she is a very good writer, with a brilliant ear for description and mood, and she also creates characters one can become greatly fond of. I am particularly fond of Campions wife, Amanda, and his...well, I suppose technically he's Campions servant, Lugg. Some may find these books a bit too obscure and hard to follow for pleasure, however I enjoy the atmosphere they create and the idiosyncratic world they portray, and in this case the mystery and it's solution are really excellent. I did not see the solution coming at all, and found it most satisfying.....
It would have helped so much if the story made sense. I don't read Gladys Mitchell for the plots, I read them for the descriptions of the world of the time, and for the humor, which is often very good in a classically dry, subtle way. This story has those components and I really enjoyed them until about half way through. However, at that point I started to get annoyed at the stupidity of the "plot" as well as the obscurity of it, and eventually it has ruined it for me. Also, Mitchell has a truly savage side that I don't appreciate. SPOILER ALERT.....In this case I see no reason why the dog had to ever enter the story, much less be killed, and it poisoned the rest of the story for me. Mitchell is full of things like this, which is why I always go off her after a bit. She really seems to enjoy killing off children, as well, which I don't hold against her considering all her years as a school teacher, but I see no reason for cruelty to animals. These points will probably not bother a lot of people, but the lack of any kind of clarity of plot or resolution of plot is a problem that will bother most readers before the end, I think. It's like Mitchell ran out of ideas about half way through, so trudged obscurely around the same "plot" track for the second half of the book to make up the required number of words. Frankly, by the time I got to the last chapter I didn't care which of the suspects killed which of the victims, I hated them all and wanted to do them in personally. This feeling is not what I look for in a cozy, and even though Mitchell looks like a cozy in some superficial aspects, she really is not.
Sure, she continues to hook me with her wonderful descriptions, eccentric characters, and sparkling, razor sharp wit. I have to be up to her dark side, though, which is pronounced and untrustworthy. I also have to be in a mood not to care about plot, or really even to understand what the plot might have been.
I like Tomlinson's characterizations of most of the female characters very much. She doesn't do opposite sex very well, and all the males sound much the same, but the women are good, and she communicates a real enjoyment and appreciation of the prose. She has a lot of fun with the Scottish waiter.
As noted, I don't see any reason to bring the puppy into it, much less to murder him.
Less time spent on the dark side.
Too much dreary plodding through the down side.
Milly Johnson is a great writer and her work always flows nicely. There are some nice bits in here, it just spends way too much time plodding through the miserable dark sides of its main characters lives. Johnson is a pleasure to read in general because her stories set up a character or characters in a life that isn't what they could achieve, examines why they are settling for less than they are, and then takes us through the transformation process to achieve a better life. This is the pattern with all the Milly Johnson books I have read, and I enjoy very much her examination of what causes women to get into less-than situations and what sort of processes and transformations they go through in order to live to their full potential.In this book, unlike "A Spring Affair" (one of my favorites and the one that caused me to get more Milly Johnson in my library), the character development in pretty shallow, the motivations are over simplified, minimal time is spent on internal transformation and growth, and worst of all the dreary story of Dawn and her miserable fiancé (and his wretched family) just goes on and on and on and on. It's depressing to read about and there's not much to be learned from it, it just drags on interminably.If you want a good chic lit empowerment story try "A Spring Affair" by the same author, it's much better-at least two thirds of the book are about the joy of growing and becoming yourself, and only the first third is an exploration of what happens when you don't stand up for yourself.
M.R. James is my favorite ghost story writer of all time, and I have read all his ghost stories over and over, but I never really thought much of this one till I bought this recording of it and listened to it. James first wrote these stories to be read aloud and I think that this one does not really achieve its full effect until you experience it this way. The reader does a great job here; and the story itself, with it's lighthearted start of dry, somewhat macabre British public school humor leaves one totally unprepared for the gradually creeping advance of true horror that builds almost imperceptibly to a magnificently hair-raising climax that NEVER fails to turn my blood to ice and bring a tear to my eye. I think it is one of the best ghost stories ever written, (though persons who are sensitive about children in ghost stories might want to avoid it.) and I highly, HIGHLY recommend this recording of it. Utterly FAB!!!
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