Sunday, 1 July 2012

Hello there!  I'm at my friend's house looking after her dog today.  While he's having a well deserved nap, I'm watching an old episode of Morse - it's got raspy-voiced Roberta Taylor that I remember from Eastenders about 10 years ago when I used to watch it.  She's playing Sheila Williams, the mistress of Theodore Kemp a randy, womanising archeologist played by Simon Callow.

are you looking at me crazy lady?

Also, I've been listening to The Alington Inheritance by Patricia Wentworth.  I put it back on reluctantly as the first book of hers that I bought was a bit of a wash-out.  That was The Danger Point, also starring Miss Maud Silver.  I had been expecting a crime thriller, but really it was nothing of the sort.

Yes, there's a murder in it.  Yes, there are a range of characters that could have perpetrated the crime - let's call them 'suspects'.  But the thing is, there's no need for suspicion at all.  It's blinking obvious who the culprit is!  In both of the books!  So the most important, enthralling and interesting element is missing - DETECTION.

Now I realise that this makes it sound a bit like Columbo.  But in that classic tv series even though we know all along 'who dunnit', at least we see the perpetrator trying to cover up their crime.  Which gives Columbo something to unravel and solve.  That cat and mouse game is exactly what provides interest, you're able to see how clever each of the protagonists are in their respective roles.

Just one more thing...

Both The Alington Inheritance and The Danger Point fail to deliver as detective novels.  There's no working out of who did the crime, not by Miss Maud Silver or anyone else.  There's also no sense that you're watching the mystery being unravelled by reasoning, questioning and intuition.  No, you simply get statements of fact from various characters (repeated two or three times, I might add) and usually covering aspects of the story that have already been described.  Pointless!

nice book cover, shame about the story

At the heart of both Patricia Wentworth novels I've listened to so far is a love story.  Indeed, I seriously think they should be re-categorised as romance instead of crime fiction.  They're a little naive and remind me of damsel in distress / knight on a white steed children's stories, but they're quite endearing because of that.

All in all I don't think I'll be in a massive rush to get another of the author's books.  Which is a real shame as there seem to be loads of them available!  Oh well!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

As I popped out to the shops to pick up a Father's Day card & present, various birthday gifts and something nice for lunch, I listened to Poirot's Early Cases through my comfy over-the-ear headphones.  And a surprising fact came to light.  Apparently Inspector Japp is an ardent botanist.

Yes, really!

Who'd have thunk it?  No I, that's for sure.  Not even if I had an unlimited number of monkeys with an unlimited number of typewriters.  And that includes if they'd managed to get the spools put in correctly.
Which isn't easy, especially for monkeys.

It was like finding out that your favourite teacher was a secret morris dancer.  Or a cross dresser.  Not sure which would be worse.  Anyway, it goes on to say he enthusiastically quotes lengthy Latin names with a dubious accent.  Gawd love 'im.

Anemone Japonica, says I

Just watching a MSW I've only seen once before.  Shocker!  Set in the offices of the San Francisco Union newspaper, owned by an overbearing Australian publishing millionaire.  Towards the end of the episode he mentions that he's just bought a satellite TV station.  Ring any bells?  It reminded me of the one based at a TV studio where they were filming 'Buds' - a sitcom about a group of friends living in New York who hang out at a coffee shop.  I wonder where they get their inspiration from...?


Anyways back to 'Dear Deadly' in San Fran.  Love the fact that someone faxes - FAXES - hate mail!  It was only the nineties, but it seems like a million years ago... *sighs*  The scary boot camp lady from Private Benjamin, Eileen Brennan, is the unfortunate victim in this episode.  There's a suitably confusing plot involving a hearing aid, a homeless man and a diamond ring.  There's also a carbon paper clue.  Not from them pesky monkeys, you'll be pleased to hear.

Six degrees of Angela Lansbury fact: Ms Brennan also appears in the almost-good Murder by Death, a ridiculous spoof of detective fiction.  Its star studded cast does the best it can with a creaky, plodding script, but ultimately it's all a bit of an unfunny mess.  Even the darling David Niven can't save it.

Ooh, that's weird.  The bloke from the co-op ads that loves his wife so much has turned up pretending to be disturbed cousin Jim on an episode of Rosemary & Thyme.  Pity I won't find out what it's all about as I can't stand R&T and their preference for dreary-coloured baggy linen outfits.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Oh deary me.

Am feeling a bit worse for wear today after meeting up with a friend for dinner last night.  We somehow managed to work our way through a bottle of white wine before we'd even ordered our food.  It was a really fun evening though, talking about her recent wedding (such a brilliant day), their honeymoon (including a menu of pillows and their own butler!) and whether you need to convince your parents you're grown-up enough to look after a dog when you're in your mid thirties!

I woke up this morning at 6am after a shockingly bad night's kip but couldn't get back to sleep.  So I put the audiobook version of Paul Temple and the Sullivan Mystery on, downed a couple of paracetamol and lay there with a cold wet flannel on my forehead.

There's nothing quite so soothing as Crawford Logan and Gerda Stevenson's dulcet tones, and some of the stuff they come out with is hilarious.  They asked Mr Schreider 'would you join us in a cocktail' like they're doing a turn as Dita von Teese.

'Would you join me in a cocktail?'

Actually, I can't look at that picture.  I really don't feel like drinking ever again...

Thursday, 7 June 2012

I love the fact that Poirot really likes dogs.  Jolly good show, what?

I've just watched David Suchet in The Mystery of Hunter's Lodge in which the murderer is uncovered by a lovely little ginger & white spaniel.  It reminded me of his unlikely friendship with Bob in Dumb Witness. Unlikely, but extremely endearing!

Detective? Moi?

I'd love to have a little dog to look after, it's so frustrating living in a flat and not having the space. Maybe I ought to move to the countryside and have a garden... hmm.

Mind you, I'm usually reminded of Sherlock Holmes commenting on the fact that the countryside is often a more dangerous place than the city -

"... look at these lonely houses, each in its own fields, filled for the most part with poor ignorant folk who know little of the law. Think of the deeds of hellish cruelty, the hidden wickedness which may go on, year in, year out, in such places, and none the wiser..."

Wise words Sherlock!  Happen I'll tough it out in the big smoke a little while longer.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

I spent the day getting the flat ready for my folks' arrival tomorrow.  We're off into town to soak up the atmosphere of the Queen's Jubilee.  Gawd bless 'er!  It's bleeshing with rain out there right now, hope it eases off.  Better pack a pac a mac!

While I was dusting, hoovering and sorting out paperwork (where does it all come from?!?) I caught an episode of The Inspector Alleyn Mysteries on Alibi - with the lovely Patrick Malahide.  I don't know why he makes such a good Alleyn.  He's not tall enough, his teeth are pretty weird and his hairline starts a bit too far back.  And yet despite all this, he's right on the money.  Authoritative.  Compassionate.  Intellectual. And with a wry sense of humour.  The interplay between Alleyn and Troy is delightful.  They're both packed full of pent up emotions, old fashioned correctness and dry wit.  Brilliant!

And now I'm watching Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles.  Funnily enough, I've noticed after watching quite a few of his Sherlock Holmes films that they appear to use the same actors again and again.  Like a repertory company, I suppose.  In this version the evil Stapleton is played by someone called Morton Lowry.  I noticed him in 'Pursuit to Algiers' where he was Sanford, the ship steward *  Mr Lowry was an impressive proponent of Action Man eye acting.  Look left - look right.  That's it, you've got it!

Also, he reminded me of a young Paul Newman.

'Cat on a hot tin roof?  What are you on about?'
courtesy of

Strangely, he seems to have fallen off the radar after 1960 - he apparently moved to the States but didn't appear in any more films or TV after that.  Well, not that I can find anyway.  Curious.  I hope he was ok.

As I was looking for that picture I happened to find a brilliant website full to the brim with amazing photos of Basil Rathbone -  This was the best of the bunch, for obvious reasons...

'pass the ketchup, Basil'
courtesy of

* spoiler alert: he also happens to be the king of some fictional country going undercover

Wednesday, 9 May 2012


I finished Ngaio Marsh's 'Opening Night'.  And goodness me, what a marathon of tedium it turned out to be.  A highly uninteresting death, too many lacklustre motives held by two-dimensional characters and a deeply unconvincing love story to top it all of.

Alleyn turned up very near the end and seemed as bored with the proceedings as I was.  I can't blame him.  He was simply going through the motions, didn't even seem to do any deducing - just collected the facts and somehow (it wasn't explained very well) arrived at the solution.  As far as I could make out it was a case of, 'right there's the story and - enny meeny miny mo - he's the culprit... bam...  I'm going home.'

By the end I neither knew nor cared who the killer was.  I strongly advise against ever trying to read this book or listen to the audio version.  I'll save you the bother.  ** spoiler alert ** The playwright did it.


On to the next one.

Monday, 7 May 2012

I bought Ngaio Marsh's 'Opening Night' a short while back and have been listening to it on and off for the past week or so.  It's driving me round the bend.  It feels like it's been running for ever and not only has no one copped it yet, but there's still no sign of Detective Chief Inspector Alleyn.

blah, blah, blah

It's torture!  Just bloomin' well get on with it!  You've set the scene already, so go ahead and knock someone off.  Do it fast or I'll stop listening.

I will too.

So you'd better.

Are we clear?
I got halfway through 'Cards on the Table' the other night and had put it on hold so I could go to bed at a reasonable hour.  (I'm not a boring old fart, honest).

Not only is it one of the most 'psychological' of Christie's novels, the cast in this particular production was excellent.  There's Donald Sinden - doing his most 'brllaa, brllaa' wobbly-jowled voice as Colonel Race.

'brllaa, brllaa, I'm Donald Sinden, brllaa'

And Stephanie Cole made a pleasant change as Ariadne Oliver, usually she's played as a ditsy, scatty eccentric (see the latest ITV Poirot series, and the Peter Ustinov-helmed 'Dead Man's Folly' from the eighties).  But in this production she was realistic, honest and relatively normal - which makes the story more believable overall.

As for the psychology, well... Poirot asks each suspect what the others were like at playing bridge, and not only does their opinion show him what they really think about the other players but also what they themselves are like.  What they notice in the surrounding room is what is important to them (historic artifacts or expensive jewellery).  In the absence of any physical evidence, it's up to Poirot to figure out how and why the crime was committed, which he does with characteristic √©lan.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Just watched the last half of Jeremy Brett's interpretation of the 'Reichenbach Falls' story and it strikes me as interesting that the final showdown between the greatest criminal and detective minds ends in a bout of fisticuffs.

'scrap, scrap, scrap!' chanted Watson

Did Conan Doyle run out of clever ideas, or was he just a bit tired and wanted to get it over with and go to bed?

Does it show us that despite our modern intellect, we're all still animals deep down inside?

Or is it that no matter how old or successful they are, all men are little boys at heart?


Tuesday, 1 May 2012

I'm happy to say that Radio 4 Extra have finally put something on worth listening to.  Hooray!  Which means I'm about the settle down to a nice bath with John Moffat (steady on, not like that) in the guise of Hercule Poirot in 'Cards on the Table'.

well, hello sailor!
Looking good John, looking good.  Well actually he looks a bit camp there, but never mind.

It'll make a nice change from the unabridged audiobooks I've downloaded recently from audible - mostly Ngaio Marsh read by the excellent James Saxon.  But for now, I'm all geared up for some Classic Christie!  Cards on the Table is the first book to feature Ariadne Oliver.  Not sure about her, a bit too much of a caricature.  I know she's a tongue in cheek take on the author herself, but even so, it's sometimes a touch too gimmicky for my liking.

Will let you know how it goes.

Also, I'm trying out a new bubble bath - smells a bit like coconut.  Tasty!