|Why Shoot a Butler? / Georgette Heyer|
NY: Dutton, 1973, c1933.
This is one of Georgette Heyer's Golden Age mysteries -- not as charming or witty as her better Regencies, nor as successful as a mystery as those by other Golden Age writers. It was, however, a fun enough read for a lazy afternoon.
In this story, Frank Amberly, a very manly lawyer, arrives at his aunt's house in the country, where instead of a relaxing break he gets himself smack into another murder mystery -- it's happened to him before, and the police are aware of his reputation.
Taking a 'shortcut' across the countryside on his way to his aunt's manor, he comes upon a young woman in distress, alongside a sports car with a dead butler inside. She swears she is innocent, and he believes her and gets her out of the way before reporting the body.
For the rest of the book he is simultaneously suspicious of her and protecting her from police investigations. He's very snide, and high-handed, and wouldn't get away with behaviour like interfering with the course of justice and overriding local police investigations anywhere but in a book like this.
It's light and quick but somehow drags at the same time. The dialogue is good, the plot alright, although it does go on a bit. A great number of the characters seem flat and not fully fleshed out, but our arrogant hero dominates while the tough, secretive, lovely heroine is appealing. The romance in the book doesn't exactly seem foretold, and the conclusion is a bit hurried, to my mind. There are multiple deaths, and numerous villians, a thrilling car chase through the dark countryside leading to an even more hair-raising boat chase at the shore -- like I said, it's a fun read for an afternoon.
It certainly shows its age, though, in some of the characterizations; quite stereotypical in many ways, only a few characters really live. Still, it is Heyer writing it so it does have its pros. Not a must read, but a pretty good one overall.