Thursday, 11 April 2013

The Rising of the Moon - Gladys Mitchell

I began to be assailed by doubts... we had no proof that [they]intended to kill us. I was still in a state of suspended panic, but the fairy-gold logic of childhood was reasserting itself, with ultimate hope of victory, in my mind.
The Rising of the Moon has become one of my favourite Mrs. Bradley novels. I had the added novelty of reading this over the Easter period, when the series of murders begins! The story is written as a first person narrative of Master Simon Innes. Mrs Bradley does not enter the story until part way through, which means that a lot of the detective work is carried out by Simon and Keith Innes (13 and 11 years old respectively), brothers who find themselves involved in a mysterious case of serial murders in their small village. The first murder takes place at the Circus, much to the dismay of the boys:

"Heared about the Ripper?" asked Fred. "There won't be any circus this afternoon."

Up to that time it was the most terrible news I had ever heard, for we were too young to have been told outright about the deaths of our parents. We had found that news out gradually, and by putting two and two together; but this was a bolt from the blue.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

The Pastor of Vejlbye - Steen Steensen Blicher

Illustration by Povl Christensen (1909 - 1977)
I wanted to read this short-story as part of my mission to read more early mystery literature. The Pastor of Vejlbye was published in 1829 and subtitled 'A Crime Story'. It is often referred to as one of the first mystery novels. 

I enjoyed the story and found myself wanting to intervene to help certain characters. It was a good quick read and worth the trouble to find the book. I did not find it easy to get hold of an English translation of this short-story; I got it as part of a collection of short-stories in the end. If you don't want to struggle to get a physical copy of the book you can find a pdf version here.

The author, Steen Steensen Blicher, was one of Denmark's great Golden Age poets and short-story writers; he was much influenced by Scottish and English literature but never visited these countries.

The story is written in the form of a diary in two parts. The first part of the story is provided by Erik Sørensen, district sheriff, and the second part provided by the pastor of AAlsøe.

It is based upon (although does not follow exactly) a real event in 1626 when pastor Søren Qvist of Vejlbye (near Grenå) was sentenced to death, for the murder of his coachman in 1607, based on circumstantial evidence.

Searching for a body in the pastor's garden (Christensen)
Following the pastor's execution one of his sons investigates further into the events leading to his conviction. This leads to a new trial in 1634 when it is discovered that a number of the witnesses had committed perjury; both were then sentenced to death.

Blicher's short-story deviates from the authentic account of the case. He changes characters and adds a number of twists, including an interesting psychological aspect in respect to Søren Qvist's personality and beliefs. I won't give away the twists or the ending in order to preserve the suspense. :)