“All the suspects in a classic murder mystery have secrets, and to keep them they lie, dissemble, evade the interrogations of the investigator. Everyone seems guilty because everyone has something to hide. For most of them, though, the secret is not murder.This is the trick on which detective fiction turns.”
The Suspicions of Mister Whicher or The Murder at Road Hill House by Kate Summerscale
Bonjour à tous! ça fait trop longtemps!
Il fait intéressant pour vous: The word ‘clue’ comes from ‘clew’, meaning a ball of thread or wool. It came to mean ‘that which points the way’ from the Greek myth in which Theseus uses a ball of wool, given to him by Ariadne, to find his way out of the Minotaur’s labyrinth.
The plot of the ‘who-done-it’ – one of my fave genres – is a kind of knot. The story can only end satisfactorily with a denouement, an unknotting.
The ‘mystery’ that Hubby and I have been mulling over? Why do we no longer read as much as we’d like to?
The usual suspects? Work. Phones. Lack of concentration. Other responsibilities.
Oh, to return to my no-cares-in-the-word-younger-self, when I spent every spare moment in a sunny spot, immersed in a book.
Words. Books. Stories. I’ve always been besotted.
What are we doing to set this right?
Let me set the scene …
Hubby and I have friends who own a stone cottage in the Yorkshire moors. It has a low stone wall covered in ivy and climbing roses, a cobbled driveway, a wood stack, large fireplace in the lounge and a freezing larder at the back. Added to this scene, the previous owner was an amateur taxidermist. His stuffed victims remain in the house. These peculiar sentinels perch in surprising places – behind a bedroom curtain or above the fireplace – dusty, somewhat moth-eaten and beady-eyed in Bates-Motel fashion. Disturbing.
Through a creaking passage, in a back room, you will find the treasure of this moorland cottage – a floor-to-ceiling-bookshelved-wall of orange Penguin classics. It’s the most beautiful, enticing, magical feature of the house. Stories literally live there!
We have no taxidermy and our house in South Africa is new, light and fresh, but we have created some enticing recesses for budding bookworms – window seats, comfy sofas, sunny spots, a supply of tea and a kettle. And in a vane attempt to emulate our friends’ Penguin collection, Hubby and I traveled to South Africa in December A LOT of books.
We bought our bourgeoning collection of Penguins at a little second hand book shop called Hurlingham books at Putney Bridge, a 15 minute walk from our house in London. It was opened in the 1960’s by (and still run by) an amiable bibliophile called Ray. Hurlingham Books claims that “ten minutes in Ray’s company and you will have a friend for life, the book you want, and possibly a box full of other books that you didn’t even know you wanted!” We found this to be true.
In 2019, we are building reading back into our busy lives. And loving it.
P.s. It goes without saying that our friends’ moorlands house has all the markings of an Agatha Christie crime set. So it was fitting that a group of us held a murder mystery dinner there one icy new years eve a few years ago. Turns out that Hubby is a great actor!
P.p.s. Total weight of our luggage to SA was 100kg! About 30kg of books, a 7kg set of French boule, a basketball hoop, a pizza peel, a telescope, a record player and almost everything but the proverbial kitchen sink.
P.p.p.s. Our Penguin classics are not all orange because it turns out that the orange ones are considered collectors items and are far more expensive.
P.p.p.p.s. I don’t know why our moorland friends kept the stuffed animals? Perhaps for a laugh or for security purposes. I’ll have to ask.
P.p.p.p.p.s. Did you work out that I’m back in French lessons?