Saturday, 28 June 2008

Review: JOSEPHINE - Gin and Murder

Gin and Murder is the first one of a series of books. They are less well known than many of her works: though they are horse related, the horses are less of an key element to the books. They are aimed at adults: in fact they are murder mystery books. Josephine is following in the steps of her mother, who was alive when this was published. This book is dedicated to her.

It was first published in 1959, though the image shown is a 1990 reprint. All 3 books are quite hard to find, though not as hard as Mystery On the Moor. The "Linford Mystery Library" editions are easier to find than the first, however they are in large print, making them quite bulky. However they are complete and unabridged, so you do not miss out on any story.

I have added it into 2 series: the series should really be called "(Chief) Inspector Flecker", as he is the character that appears throughout the whole series, and quite a key. However, because of the relative obscurity of the books, it may not be obvious to people, and therefore I am also adding a "Adult Murder Mystery" tag, which makes more sense.

The blurb reads:-

When Guy Vickers died after Commander Chadwick's cocktail party, murder was the last thing suspected by East Wintshire. Murder was something one read about in the Sunday newspapers; it just didn't happen to people like them.

But murder it was. And when Inspector Hollis of the County Police began his rather ham-handed investigations, he found plenty of motives concealed behind those conventional fa├žades.

It took a second murder to stampede the Chief Constable into sending for help from Scotland Yard, and when help came in the person of Chief Inspector James Flecker, he began to wonder whether it had been a wise move...

The horse element is somewhat lesser than her horse books. It is mainly confined to the fact that the book is set against a hunting background. Part of the book dwells on the party of the hunting franiterny, and the politics of the hunt. Apart from a couple of visits to the kennels by James Flecker, and a somewhat minimally detailed hunting day, there isn't much horse related. The majority of the story is taken up by Inspector Hollis' and later Chief Inspector James Flecker's investigations.

Although it is meant for adults, it could be read by older teenagers too. There is a small amount of swearing here and there, so it would definitely not be suitable for children. Also, one of the characters in the book drinks a lot, and therefore it makes it also unsuitable for young teenagers.
If you do not like hunting or want more horses, then perhaps this is not the book for you: then you are better off with Josephine's other (fictional) works.

The books is not too graphic: to be honest, Josephine's other adult book: A Place With Two Faces (written under the pseudonym of Josephine Mann) is more so. But then again, that is a different genre: that is a gothic terror novel. If you dont like hearing (in graphic detail) about how the person died, worry not, apart from the cause of death, there is very little detail about the two people die.

I do not know if this is a good or bad murder mystery book: to be honest, I have yet to read any other murder mystery book. Although her mother (Joanna Cannan) was famous for writing detective novels (Rue Morgue Press compare to her to other famous authors at the time, including a friend, Georgette Heyer), it is probably a decent one. Joanna Cannan herself wrote one book which is along the lines of this (having a horsey background I mean) which is Murder Included, which I will review at a later date.

The characters are well thought out, and the situation is believable. It is neither a heavy read or a light one, it falls in the middle. The action flows along nicely, though the plot is not over complicated. For me personally, I was put off in detective/murder novels because I was worried about the plot and the book being very complicated, and therefore hard to follow, worry not. This is not the case.

Still it has a decent enough ending, and everything is nicely sown up, though the ending has a slight twist in it. Enough to keep most people amused, and perhaps not for everyone, but if you can get past the lack of horses. It is enough to keep people who are perhaps interested in murder mysteries but not horses happy. Quite a good book in all, and a decent enough departure from Josephine's usual style.