Halloween Bingo: Romantic Suspense

I am not particularly a fan of romantic suspense, except for Mary Stewart, but I do love old-fashioned gothic romance, which fits this square as well.

Vintage gothic romance has been a stable of my Halloween bingo games since the very beginning, in 2016, when we started HB with a group read of Ammie Come Home by Barbara Michaels. This was great fun, a ghost story set in Georgetown, of all places, and first published in 1968. It was just the right amount of creepy.

In addition to Ammie Comes Home, I have read:

  • Falonridge by Jennifer Wilde
  • The Looking Glass Portrait by my friend, Linda Hilton, who also plays Halloween Bingo with me on Goodreads
  • Greygallows by Barbara Michaels
  • Listen for the Whisperer by Phyllis Whitney
  • Columbella by Phyllis Whitney
  • The Walker in the Shadows by Barbara Michaels
  • The Lost Island by Phyllis Whitney
  • The Sea King’s Daughter by Barbara Michaels
  • The Singing Stones by Phyllis Whitney

Last year, in 2020, was the first and only year that I didn’t read anything by Michaels or Whitney. I’m surprised to see that there aren’t any Victoria Holt gothics, and also that there isn’t any Mary Stewart in past bingo games. The large number of Phyllis Whitney books makes sense to me, though – Open Road has reissued her entire backlist, and I’ve ended up buying most of them as they have gone on sale for $1.99 to $2.99. And my library has a bunch of the Barbara Michaels ebooks, so that also makes sense. This is one of the great things about ebooks – many of these old fashioned gothics that are long out of print are newly available through small publishers (same is true of vintage mysteries).

Last year I was browsing my UBS and someone had just dropped off a stack of old paperback gothics. I grabbed some of them and have been kicking myself ever since for just not buying them all – this is a lesson to me. There have been a few times that I have let books that I wanted go unbought, and I’ve always regretted it. I have never regretted buying the book. I love old paperbacks and used copies are difficult to acquire. A lot of them are pretty battered, but they were quite a find nonetheless.

So, this year I am planning on something by one of my big 4: Holt, Whitney, Michaels or Stewart. I have many that I am considering, including:

I own unread copies of Emerald and Airs Above the Ground and they are waiting for me on my kindle. I also checked out Into the Darkness by Barbara Michaels. If I end up not reading it for this round of bingo, I am sure I will check it out again at some point.

Halloween Bingo: Southern Gothic

Yesterday we visited all of the Londons of my imagination – and today I’ll talk about a place that couldn’t be more different if it tried – the swampy, violent, and often murderous, version of the American South that is found in Southern Gothic books. Books set in this region get their own square. In my mind, it all looks like the bayou and, well, there are ghosts.

Is this why William Faulkner wrote “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

I’ve had this square on my card twice:

In 2020, I read Amy Engel’s The Familiar Dark, a murder mystery set in the Ozarks of Missouri. I wrote “I’m not sure how much I actually liked this book. It was set in a small meth-devastated town full of awful people in the Missouri Ozarks, though, so it was perfect for this square,” and, as well, I’ll admit that I barely remember this book a year later. As such, I can’t recommend it.

Southern Gothic didn’t appear on my card in 2019, but in 2018 I read Sharyn McCrumb’s The Ballad of Frankie Silver, which is part of her Ballad series set in Appalachia. Most of them are set in Dark Hollow, Tennessee, but this one takes place in North Carolina. I’ve read at least three of these books and they are universally good.

There are other books that I’ve read for other squares that I can also recommend, most especially Blackwater: the Complete Caskey Family Saga by Michael McDowell which is an incredibly atmospheric piece of southern gothic horror, with a really unique voice. I am not a horror fan. I absolutely loved this book.  In fact, I loved it so much that another book by McDowell is on my short list for this category this year. I also read Be Buried in the Rain, by Barbara Michael, a gothic romance set at a Virginia plantation called Maidenwood, where terrible family secrets are about to be uncovered.

So, for 2021, I am choosing from:

The Elementals is set on the Gulf Coast, and concerns two families from Mobile, Alabama, the McCrays and the Savages, who have been spending their summers in a pair of Victorian homes on a spit of land called Beldame, on the Gulf Coast, for years. There is a third, abandoned, summer home that is slowly disappearing into the encroaching sand, which houses a “vicious horror which is shaping nightmares from the nothingness that hangs in the dank, fetid air.” Yikes. 

The other possibility that I’m considering is a piece of magical realism, Wildwood Whispers by Willa Reece, set in Morgan’s Gap, in Appalachia. I really want to read this book, but my library says that it won’t be available to check out as an ebook for 16 weeks, which is well-past my Halloween Bingo cut off. On the other hand, I did place a hold for the print version, which should show up at my branch in the next few days.

Halloween Bingo: Darkest London

I have only been to London in the real world once – I had just graduated from high school and, as a reward, my parents sent me on one of those two week, whirlwind European tours, where we raced through several of the major cities: London, Paris, Amsterdam, Munich, Lucerne, Rome, Venice, Barcelona, Madrid. I loved London (loved every place, honestly) and always intended to return. I never have.

Except as an armchair traveler. If we count the number of days I have spent in Piccadilly and Mayfair, lurking in a Tube station, dancing at Almack’s, or solving mysteries in a mansion flat in Whitehaven Manor or Mrs. Hudson’s rooms at 221B Baker Street, I’ve spent months there. Maybe years. Some of those mental trips have been to the London that is real; many of them have been to a fictional London that exists only in the imagination of the author who conjured them up. I love all of the Londons – real and unreal, fact and fiction. The Londons of the past, present and, probably even future.

I think it’s probably my love of Victorian literature that is at the bottom of this London obsession. I can’t get enough of gaslit London – Sherlock Holmes, Dickens musing on the pea-soupers, A Christmas Carol and Scrooge and the Cratchits. Or, possibly, the Regency London of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer (and their progeny), with its strolls along the Serpentine, marriageable Dukes and curricle races. And then, the interwar London and London of the Blitz, the London of Bloomsbury and Peter Wimsey and Hercule Poirot. These are the Londons that I think of – places that are barely even real because they have been idealized and fictionalized across a century or more, and yet have more depth and resonance to me than Phoenix, Arizona and other brand-new cities scattered across the United States, like infections of urban blight, places I have been and can barely even remember because they all look the same.

  • 2020: I read The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King. This is the first in the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series, and takes place partially in 1920’s London.
  • 2019: The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson. I’ve mentioned this one a few times in prior posts. Anything involving Jack the Ripper is pretty much catnip to me.

And so far in this post, I haven’t even mentioned the magical Londons – the red London of V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic, the underground London of Gaiman’s Neverwhere, the steam-punk London of Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate, and the ghost-infested Shades of London series by Paul Cornell. And that brings me to this year’s books.

So, for this year, I’m thinking that I will go with the third book in the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch, Whispers Underground. I recently reread the first, and read the second, in the series and really enjoyed them both, and Whispers Underground is sitting in my library loans. I also have Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco (see above Ripper = catnip comment) checked out, and I am behind on the Alex Verus series by Benedict Jacka, which is sort of a British version of Harry Dresden.

Halloween Bingo: Dark Academia & Paint It Black

This post covers two, two, two squares in one!

It wasn’t until I came up with the Dark Academia square (Any mystery, horror, suspense or supernatural book that occurs at a school – boarding school, high school, university, college, etc.) for Halloween Bingo that it occurred to me how much I love books with academic settings. I must not be alone here – given how many of them there are, this must be a fairly beloved literary trope.

  • I read Death in Holy Orders by P.D. James last year, and really enjoyed it. It is set in a rather unusual theological seminary on the East Anglian Coast. The book combined the “academic” setting with another element that I love – the isolated, windswept coastal setting. I can’t get enough of books with these themes!
  • In 2019, I read The Cat Among The Pigeons by Agatha Christie. This book is set at a very traditionally untraditional English girl’s school – Meadowbank – and combines murder mystery and political thriller elements. It features some of my favorite side-characters, including Julia Upjohn, the very clever student who solves the mystery and outwits the killer, and Miss Bulstrode, the headmistress. As an aside, the adaptation of this novel for the BBC Poirot series is outstanding, with the always incredible Harriet Walters playing Miss Bulstrode.

And speaking of Harriet Walters, Ms. Walters previously performed the role of Harriet Vane in Dorothy Sayer’s Lord Peter Wimsey series. I have never (re)read Gaudy Night, the 10th Wimsey mystery, specifically for this square but that book may be the quintessence of the perfect academic mystery, and I recommend it to absolutely everyone.

This square debuted in either the 2018 or the 2019 game, and I’ve only had it on my card twice previously. I have read additional books set in schools for other squares, including: Some of Us Are Lying (Karen McManus); several of the Harry Potter books (J.K. Rowling), Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Ransom Riggs), Down a Dark Hall (Lois Duncan), Truly Devious and The Name of the Star (both by Maureen Johnson), and Etiquette and Espionage (Gail Carriger).

This year, my Dark Academia and Paint It Black squares are, coincidentally, side-by-side on my card. In addition, the two books that I have selected for Dark Academia happen to also qualify for Paint It Black, which includes any book with a cover that is predominantly black.

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novick: I already have this checked out of the library and am holding off on reading it until the game begins! I’m a fan of Novick’s fairy tale retelling, The Uprooted, and also enjoyed several books in her alternative-history-with-dragons series set during the Napoleonic Wars, starting with His Majesty’s Dragon. This one is set at Scholomance, a school for the magically gifted.

The Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo: This has been on my TBR since it was published. It’s set at Yale and with a main character who is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. I have several friends who have loved this book.

If neither of these end up working for me during the game, I can always go back to a Gaudy Night reread – that book is so wonderful I can’t get enough of it. And, fortuitously, several of the Margery Allingham Albert Campion mysteries have covers that would qualify for Paint It Black. Lots of options!.

Halloween Bingo: Trick or Treat

Rather than go in some sort of order, I have just decided to write up topics as they appeal to me – I’ll end up at the end with the posts that I am least interested in, but that’s okay. So, I have this square Row 3, Column 4 of my square. For 2021, the Trick or Treat square focuses on Young Adult and Middle Grade books that are mystery, suspense, horror or supernatural.

I like to fill this square with a vintage-y YA horror selection, along the lines of Lois Duncan or Richie Tankersley Cusick. In past years, some of my YA/MG Halloween Bingo selections have included:

  • Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger
  • Trick or Treat and Help Wanted by Richie Tankerley Cusick
  • All the Bad Apples by Moira Fowley-Doyle
  • The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
  • One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus
  • I Know What You Did Last Summer and Down a Dark Hall by Lois Duncan

I have read much less YA/MG in the last couple of years, but this is still a small sample of some of the juvenile books I’ve read for Halloween Bingo. Etiquette and Espionage is fun and steampunky, and set in a finishing school for Victorian girls with special talents in mayhem, assassination and espionage. All The Bad Apples is magical realism, and was one of my favorite books of 2019 – Fowley-Doyle’s perspective on the brutal history of misogyny and abuse in Catholic Ireland was very timely and completely absorbing. As an aside, I’ve read all three of her books, and have enjoyed each more than the prior.

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson, is set in London, at a boarding school. The main character, Rory, arrives from Louisiana, just in time for someone to begin re-enacting the Ripper murders from the 1880s. One of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus is basically a modernized version of The Breakfast Club, with murder. And it’s as much fun as that would imply, although I was underwhelmed by the ending.

Of the two Richie Tankersley Cusick books, Trick or Treat was definitely better than Help Wanted. They were both very 1980’s/1990’s tween horror. This isn’t my nostalgia – I am too old for them, and my kids are too young, but they are still fun. Lois Duncan, on the hand, is absolutely a nostalgia bomb for me. I still remember checking Down A Dark Hall out of my Junior High School library – it scared the bejeezus out of me. I Know What You Did Last Summer was another favorite of my tween years, and the 1997 adaptation, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze, Jr. (who met on set and married 4 years later) is entertaining and has plenty of jump scares.

This year, I’m strongly leaning towards Mary Downing Hahn’s Deep and Dark and Dangerous . In the alternative, I might read a Point Horror or a Fear Street – Funhouse by Diane Hoh is particularly appealing.

Halloween Bingo: Splatter Transfigured to Halloween

Part of the fun of Halloween bingo is a set of six “spell cards” that can be used to change the game. I am not feeling inclined to read a serial killer or other very violent book at this point, which is what the Splatter squares involves, so I am transfiguring my Splatter square to Halloween. Halloween includes “any book set on halloween or has halloween in the title or that has a pumpkin on the cover, or in the title, etc.” It also includes a “fancy dress” or costuming element that was previously part of a different square, because it fits here better.

What could be better, then, then a murder set in a theater or among actors, whose jobs involve costuming? The October side-read for Appointment with Agatha is a selection of Ngaio Marsh theatrical mysteries. We have voted on four books to choose from, including Enter a Murderer, which I read this January and do not plan to reread. The remaining three, however, are new to me.

I’m planning on reading all three of them, if I can manage it. I’m not entirely sure that Final Curtain actually involves costumes, but I can surely wedge into another square if not. I’ve enjoyed all of the Inspector Alleyn mysteries that I’ve read, so I’m looking forward to it!

Halloween Bingo: Amateur Sleuth

I’ve completed my discussion of the first row, and have realized that I am going to run out of time before Bingo begins. No worries, though. I’ll just keep going until I lose interest!

This is a really easy square for me to fill – it’s mystery, first of all, which is my favorite, and most read, genre, and then it’s also a sub-genre that I read a lot of, in any case. I’m not actually a huge cozy mystery fan, which works well for “Amateur Sleuth,” but a lot of my favorite Golden Age series, and even some of my modern series, do have P.I. or other amateur protagonists.

Which brings me to the definition – I take a “broad” approach to amateur, allowing any sleuth who isn’t actively employed by a police department or other government sanctioned agency (FBI, sheriffs, prosecutors, etc). So, with my definition, P.I.’s and retired police officers fit, and even Sherlock Holmes is an “amateur sleuth,” notwithstanding the fact that he would be deeply, deeply offended by the characterization!

I’m not going to list all of the books I’ve read in past bingo games that would have fit this square because the list would be long, indeed. Looking back over past cards, I’m surprised to note that I have never actually played this specific square before. In any case, I’m just going to mention a few books/series that are on my radar for this HB season!

I will definitely be reading both of these books, as they are my Appointment With Agatha reads for September and October. They are also both Poirot books, and much to his irritation, he is also an “amateur sleuth” under this square’s definition.

If I decide to apply both of those books to alternative squares, however, I have some other ongoing vintage mystery series that I could dip into for this one: Brian Flynn’s Anthony Bathurst series, currently being republished by one of my favorite small, independent publishers, Dean Street Press, Gladys Mitchell’s Mrs. Bradley series, most of which are available through the Kindle Unlimited Library, the Miss Silver series by Patricia Wentworth, which I mostly own for kindle, or Ellis Peter’s delightful Brother Cadfael books, which I have also collected over the years.

The choices are, truly endless.

Halloween Bingo: Noir

The last of my top row squares is Noir, an  updated square that combines Classic & Modern Noir into a single category: mystery with noir elements, including authors like Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, James Ellroy, Ian Rankin, Michael Connelly, Henning Mankell, and anything that is described as Nordic Noir, Tartan Noir, Granite Noir, etc. Noir itself is defined by Wikipedia as “a subgenre of crime fiction. In this subgenre, right and wrong are not clearly defined, while the protagonists are seriously and often tragically flawed.”

I myself am rather a fan of noir crime fiction. In one of my favorites modern noir series, the protagonist of Michael Connelly’s long-running series, Hieronymus (Harry) Bosch, provides an example of the use of a flawed protagonist. Harry is a veteran detective with the LAPD, insubordinate, aggressive, and a brilliant investigator. He is passionate about justice – everybody counts or nobody counts is his motto – but doesn’t mind cutting a few corners on the way there. He is also deeply damaged, the son of a prostitute who grew up in foster care after his mother was murdered – a murder that went unsolved for decades. While he sees murder in black and white, there are a lot of shades of gray in these books.

Connelly uses Los Angeles as another character in the novels, and something about Southern California seems to lend itself to the noir sensibility. Los Angeles is the birthplace of the classic noir crime novel, which features hardboiled P.I.s like Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade, operating in the shadowy confluence between the glitter and glamour of wealthy L.A. and the dark and sometimes grim underworld of drug dealers, prostitutes and violence operating just under the surface.

In past Halloween Bingo games, I’ve filled various spaces, including Classic Noir, Modern Noir, and other mystery squares with this type of book:

  • The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo
  • The Bride Wore Black by Cornell Woolrich
  • Fallen by Karin Slaughter
  • Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
  • Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

I recall being underwhelmed by the Nesbo book – so much so that I’ve never gone back to try another. The Bride Wore Black, by Cornell Woolrich, was a highlight of the year that I read it. I still remember how atmospheric it was and the twist, while not quite as shocking to today’s sensibilities as it was when this book was published, was still startling. I’ve read a lot of Karin Slaughter over the years, and while I do enjoy her plots, sometimes the violence, and especially the sexual violence, that permeates her books can be too much. Fallen is the fifth book in her Will Trent series, set in Atlanta, Georgia. Dark Places and Sharp Objects may or may not truly qualify as noir, being more consistent with psychological thrillers. But Gillian Flynn’s imagination is a dark place, indeed.

This year, I will be choosing from

I recently started reading Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe books. This year so far, I’ve read The High Window and The Lady in the Lake. I’m pretty sure that I will fill this square with one of my remaining installments in the series, possibly the first, The Big Sleep. Alternatively, I am considering one of the Lew Archer mysteries, by Ross Macdonald, or, if I decide on a more modern selection, I have the fifth Dublin Murder Squad book, The Secret Place by Tana French, available.

I’ll be working through Row 2 of my card next.

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

Plot Summary: This swashbuckling epic of chivalry, honor, and derring-do, set in France during the 1620s, is richly populated with romantic heroes, unattainable heroines, kings, queens, cavaliers, and criminals in a whirl of adventure, espionage, conspiracy, murder, vengeance, love, scandal, and suspense. Dumas transforms minor historical figures into larger- than-life characters: the Comte d’Artagnan, an impetuous young man in pursuit of glory; the beguilingly evil seductress “Milady”; the powerful and devious Cardinal Richelieu; the weak King Louis XIII and his unhappy queen—and, of course, the three musketeers themselves, Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, whose motto “all for one, one for all” has come to epitomize devoted friendship. With a plot that delivers stolen diamonds, masked balls, purloined letters, and, of course, great bouts of swordplay, The Three Musketeers is eternally entertaining. 

Published in 1844, this book has achieved that sort of cultural status in which pretty much everyone has at least heard of it, and most people have a familiarity with the plot and/or characters. Because of that, I’m not going to concern myself about spoilers. If you care about spoiling the plot of a book that was published 160 years ago, perhaps do not read on.

I had high expectations of this book – I love a good swashbuckling story and I expected to be charmed by our protagonists. 

There were parts of the book that I enjoyed. Overall, though, I think that the book suffered from two things: the overwhelming dickishness of the main characters and the fact that I am not a nine-year-old boy. 

I spent much of the book bemused about the fact that the characters (basically all men) kept pulling out their swords (that is NOT a double entendre – I mean pulling out their actual long, metal, pointy weapons) to hack at one another for the most trivial of insults. If duelling was as prevalent as this book made it seem during 17th century France, I cannot imagine how any of the local aristocrats were able to maintain a standing army. The soldiers kept murdering one another for the most ridiculous slights.

In addition, I was thoroughly annoyed by the bad behavior of the “Three Musketeers.” There was far too little swashbuckling and heroism and far too much stealing, gambling (things belonging to other people) and refusing to pay one’s bills. No wonder the French went about chopping off the heads of the aristocrats during the French revolution. Those people were such massive assholes – Porthos, for example, checks into a hotel and refuses to either pay or leave. 

I can certainly understand why the book appeals to people. I am, however, not one of those people. I wanted to slap the protagonists into the 21st century, where they would inevitably get #MeToo’d into oblivion. 

I know, I know, we can’t judge characters in a book written in 1844 by current cultural standards. Nonetheless, I certainly don’t have to like them. In terms of enjoyment, I’d rank this at middling enjoyable. Not bad, but not nearly as good as I had expected.

I was planning to put this in the 19th century classic category in my Back to the Classics challenge, but I have decided to move it to Classics in Translation, as that is typically a more difficult category for me to fill, and I play to read something by Mrs. Oliphant later this year.

First World Problems: Heyer style

And, this is the second review that has been sitting draft forever – it was originally published January 24, 2015.

Title: Death in the Stocks
Author: Georgette Heyer
Published in 1935

Summary from Goodreads: A Moonlit Night, a Sleeping Village, and an Unaccountable Murder…

In the dead of the night, a man in an evening dress is found murdered, locked in the stocks on the village green. Unfortunately for Superintendent Hannasyde, the deceased is Andrew Vereker, a man hated by nearly everyone, especially his odd and unhelpful family members. The Verekers are as eccentric as they are corrupt, and it will take all Hannasyde’s skill at detection to determine who’s telling the truth, and who is pointing him in the wrong direction. The question is: who in this family is clever enough to get away with murder?

“Miss Heyer’s characters act and speak with an ease and conviction that is refreshing as it is rare in the ordinary mystery novel.”–Times Literary Supplement

Heyer is better known for her romances than her mysteries, and for good reason, honestly. This was a reasonably entertaining mystery, but was really nothing special. It is very much a class-based mystery, as are many of the golden age mysteries.

The book begins with the grisly discovery of a body in the stocks in the village of Ashleigh Green – Arnold Vereker has been stabbed. Arnold is the wealthy eldest brother of the Vereker family, and the prime suspects are his two siblings: the smashing Antonia, who is engaged to Rudolph, and employee of Arnold’s and not a particularly suitable partner for Antonia, and Kenneth, the artistic freeloader who is engaged to the beautiful and expensive Violet. It’s obvious that Arnold has been murdered for his money. The question is which of the suspects, all of whom loathed Arnold, is the guilty party.

I get the sense that Heyer was a bit of a snob, mostly from reading biographical stuff about her, but also from her books. This mystery – along with the one other mystery I’ve read of hers – relies heavily on the “Bright Young Thing” trope that is common in golden age mysteries. The BYT is a young, generally extremely attractive, female character who is a bit bohemian, who always ends up marrying someone whom she will enliven, at the same time that he will steady her. She is sort of a precursor to the MPDG (manic pixie dream girl) character trope that we’ve seen more recently.

The BYT is always desirable, and is the “heroine” of the piece. She is usually attached to someone who is not good for her – as Tony was at the beginning of this story. Giles is the perfect foil for the BYT – he is steady, but not staid, and head-over-heels for the girl. He is a Mr. Knightley, as opposed to a Mr. Wickham or a Mr. Willoughby. Not interesting enough to carry the book on his own, he’s the classic nice guy who deserves to win the hand of the cool girl. As soon as Giles ends up in the same room with her, we KNOW that he is the guy for Tony.

Violet, on the other hand, is NOT a BYT. First of all, she’s not that bright. And she’s a gold-digger – she is not sufficiently light-hearted or bohemian. It isn’t Violet’s lower class roots, but her actual lack of class, that excludes her. Being a BYT wasn’t actually dependent on having money – it was all about attitude. One could sponge off others, but not be a gold-digger, as long as one was convincingly able to maintain the fiction that money was unimportant. I know this makes no sense, but this is the sense I make of the trope after reading tons of these books.

Ultimately, the relationship with money in books of this time period can be really conflicted (as it was for Heyer herself!). Having money is perceived as admirable, but making money is grubby and greedy. So, Tony & Kenneth could live off of Arnold’s labor, and still feel his superior because, you know, they didn’t care about money. Even though the money that allows them to eat comes directly from him. It’s schizophrenic at best, hypocritical at worst.

Unfortunately, this trope has not worn well in the modern era of rising inequality. I found Kenneth deplorable, and Tony annoying. I wanted them both to get off their underwhelming, overindulged asses and do something – anything – useful. Arnold was awful, but he was no more awful than the people around him. He might have even been less awful. At least he was capable of feeding himself.

Tying this back to Heyer, she was involved in a tremendous conflict with Inland Revenue during her lifetime. She wrote because it paid the bills, but was constantly fighting about taxes, and at one point set up a LLC to try to lessen her tax burden, then basically got caught treating the LLC like it was her bank account, and the tax authorities got pissed and told she owed a bunch of money. Which I believe she ultimately paid, but she was not happy about it. She, herself, was more like Arthur (probably) than like either Violet or Antonia/Kenneth, but I think that she clearly sympathized with “the gentry” and the “leisured class.”

Over all, this is a reasonably enjoyable golden age mystery, although I never find Heyer’s mysteries as well-plotted as Christie’s or as enjoyable and quirky as Sayers. She’s definitely a second tier mystery novelist. And all of the characters could have used a swift kick in the ass.