Monday, 4 March 2013

Watson's Choice - Gladys Mitchell

Even though I only recently finished reading the Sherlock Holmes books at the end of last year, I still found it hard to identify all of the stories or characters referred to in Watson's Choice.

 Some of the stories I definitely remembered:
  • The Five Orange Pips
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles  (who couldn't?) 
  • The Adventure of the Speckled Band
  • The Silver Blaze (although I would not have realised the curry reference!)
  • The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle
I did not remember the Mrs Farintosh reference. I will have to go back to the canon to check up on that.

I thought this book was wonderful and crammed with plenty of winks towards Sherlock Holmes. At first you expect a typical 'whodunnit' as a Sherlock Holmes themed dinner party is arranged. You eagerly await the moment one of the guests is found murdered... and then it doesn't happen. You get a completely different kind of murder mystery instead. Definitely keeps you guessing.

The part where Sir Bohun Chantrey admits that he was to arrange for a gaggle of geese to be let loose amongst his guests as a reference to the Aventure of the Blue Carbuncle actually made me think of the Series 4 Uskerty episode of Cabin Pressure. A series about a ramshackle crew of a small charter air line (or 'air dot' - you cannot put one plane in a line). Quoted from Cabin Pressure Live Journal. As background, Douglas has just told Arthur that Martin is 'the best at being made fun of' because he always goes that extra mile to provide material for you to make fun of. Also, they are at a small airfield where the hyperactive airport manager has been showing them all of the new equipment he has got. It's too complicated to explain the sheep...

My favourite section of the episode:

(Martin bursts through the door of the bar as Carolyn hurries away.)
ARTHUR: Hey, Skip!
MARTIN (urgently): Douglas, quick. I need your help.
DOUGLAS: Martin ... Good Lord, you’re soaking wet.
MARTIN: Yes, well, it’s raining outside. Look ...
DOUGLAS: What happened to your uniform?
MARTIN: I tore it falling out of a tree ...
DOUGLAS: Yes, but what’s that all over it?
MARTIN: Oh, er, goose droppings, but ...
DOUGLAS: Is your hand okay?
MARTIN (increasingly rapidly): No, a bee stung me ...
DOUGLAS: What are you carrying?
MARTIN (frantically): What does it look like?! A stuffed sheep!
DOUGLAS: You see, Arthur? The master.
MARTIN: Douglas, listen. There’s a truck full of geese outside and one of them ate my Dad’s ring and I don’t know which one and I know there’s nothing you can do but is there anything you can do?
DOUGLAS: Gosh. Well, it’s a-a bit of a tall order, Martin, even for me.
MARTIN (more quietly): You can’t do anything?
DOUGLAS: I didn’t say that. Gerry.
MARTIN: Douglas ...
DOUGLAS: This is Martin. Martin is a man who would like to discover which of a truckload of geese has swallowed a valuable ring. Martin, this is Gerry. Gerry is a man who wishes he could get more use out of his metal-detecting gate. Perhaps you two could have a profitable discussion.
GERRY: Oh, grand!
CAROLYN (urgently as she hurries over): Come on, come on. Where are you all? Twelve minutes.
MARTIN: Er, yes, Carolyn. But, er, b-before that, though, I-I just want to very quickly X-ray all the geese.
CAROLYN: You what?! No, I’m sorry, Martin, I’m very sorry, but there is no time! Now come on!
MARTIN (firmly): No. I’m sorry, Carolyn. I carried the sheep for you. I climbed the tree. I rode the back of the truck. But now I have to X-ray these geese.
DOUGLAS: Always the extra mile. 

Whilst trying to find the transcript I found this on John Finnemore's blog; it seems others had noticed the reference too. 

1 comment:

  1. on

    Hi Les, I've just come across your blog and I think it is great. I am a big fan of mystery novels, which I think stems from having read a lot of Enid Blyton and Agatha Christie when I was young. I've started reading Gladys Mitchell but I haven't got to A Hearse on May-Day yet. I've read 9 of her Mrs Bradley books so far and I'd like to read them all. They are a challenge to find in print in the UK at the moment. I've also taken an interest in reading some of the early detective fiction. I've just finished reading The Woman in White (1860) by Wilkie Collins and I've recently bought The Rector of Veilbye (1829) by Steen Steensten Bilcher. Are there any early detective books that you would recommend I add to my list? Thanks for your help :) - MGOT

    Welcome, mysterygirl, and I'm glad you're enjoying the blog. Mitchell books can be a challenge in the US as well, although the Rue Morgue Press has been reprinting some over here, and there are also some new ebook editions. I really have only read a handful of hers so far, and I'm looking forward to expanding my list.
    As far as suggestions for early detective fiction, another Collins, The Moonstone, is certainly worth reading. Some of Mary Roberts Rinehart's early books, especially "The Man in Lower Ten," are enjoyable; so are a lot of Edgar Wallace potboilers. I'm assuming you've already been through Sherlock Holmes. Chesterton's "Father Brown" stories, to be sure, should be on the list. You might want to chek the "backlist" page (which you'll find in the right-hand column, near the top) for other suggestions. Again, welcome!- Les Blatt