Thursday, 14 May 2015

Book of 1949: Murder Begins at Home by Delano Ames


published 1949


AFTER LAST WEEK’S LIST OF WARTIME HOMEFRONT BOOKS, AND THE COMMEMORATION OF THE VE DAY 70TH ANNIVERSARY, THE BLOG IS GOING TO FEATURE SOME POST-WAR BOOKS…..INCLUDING THIS ONE, WHICH ALSO FITS INTO THE #1949 BOOKS MEME



Delano Ames 1


[The cast has assembled in a luxurious ranch in New Mexico, including narrator Jane and her husband Dagobert]
 

I was spared the necessity of comment by the arrival in best Western style of a galloping horse at the patio entrance. A girl slid dextrously from the saddle, pushed open the gate, and strode toward us. She wore blue jeans and a man’s white shirt. She was hatless, and her straight fair hair had been blown in all directions by the wind. She wore no make-up. At first I didn’t realize she was as old as twenty-three or four, and that with a little care she might be pretty…


delano ames 2The Karnaks appeared…. Sue, with her fair hair loose around her shoulders and only her lips made up, looked prettier than I remembered her. I saw Dagobert rise with, I thought unnecessary gallantry and offer her his chair. The Karnaks were both dressed for riding, Sue in perfectly tailored jodhpurs and a dull green tweed jacket of the sort nowadays found in England with the label: for export only. I remembered that Miranda had arranged a riding expedition…





 





Cardigan wilson ranch
Sue was now talking about her headache and complaining that she felt chilly. I had forgotten about her headache, and suggested that she was probably dying of slow starvation. Peggy was more considerate. She at least ran back to her room and produced a light-green cardigan.


 
observations:  Delano Ames wrote light murder stories featuring a detecting couple, Jane and Dagobert Brown. Rich Westwood of Past Offences, whose Crime of the Century meme we are joining in with today, claims he hadn’t heard of Ames till 2 weeks ago, and now sees them everywhere, so I am continuing the harassment by choosing this as my book for 1949, the year chosen for May. (Ames has been here on the blog before, Murder Maestro Please, and on Col’s Criminal Library, Corpse Diplomatique, recently too.)

I find the books harmless and entertaining, with a couple of reservations. I have to keep reminding myself that Jane and Dagobert are English – they give not the slightest impression of being anything but solid Americans in the way they talk, act and dress. On the whole the female narration is well-done, but I found some of Jane’s pronouncements on how to keep a man a bit much (even allowing for the date) and very much male-oriented.

The manoeuvrings round the ranch on the night of the murder are ridiculous, obviously aimed at creating plenty of suspects and possibilities, but really – Miranda (the bossy queen of the family) and…

 
 
SLIGHT SPOILER ON VICTIM, GIVEN AWAY ON BACK JACKET AND IN PUBLICITY


 
 
….obvious potential victim simply doesn’t appear in the book till after she’s dead, and is never seen at all by Jane. This seems as though it should be significant, but isn’t. In fact the air of a really difficult and awkward weekend visit, full of etiquette problems, is unexpectedly very well done, as Jane and Dagobert wander around unable to find their hosts or anyone else to help them. There is an odd scene where the hostess, who has been cooking the enchiladas in the kitchen, goes away and doesn’t turn up for dinner but the food still appears, apparently by magic (I presume staff are involved, but no explanation is offered.)

The various plots going on in the house recall some tricks from a Margery Allingham, and from an almost-contemporaneous Agatha Christie. Virtually everyone is accused in turn, as all have been up to something or other…

As a 1949 book: there is an air of the war being over and everyone going home. The sherriff’s son is having trouble over a wartime marriage. One character is a scientist at the atomic research station near Alamogordo, and I had high hopes of this as a plot development, but it is completely irrelevant. A cowboy wears a silk shirt in a check pattern - this seems somehow very unlikely. 

The two women’s contrasting riding gear described above seemed to show a world about to change dramatically.

The top one is, obviously, an advert for Levis.

The second picture is an advert for shape-changing foundationwear – if ever there was an outfit that didn’t require it, it’s this one.

Cardigan girl in the 3rd picture, standing in front of an authentic Jane-and-Dagobert jalopy, was actually photographed on a ranch.


















12 comments:

  1. Seems to be common to my read, insofar as he keeps as many name's circulating in the suspect's hat for as long as possible. I did feel that the couple came across as very English in my book, and I was kind of surprised to find out Ames was an American. I suppose he could have spent a lot of time over here?

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    1. Yes, and similar to the other one I read: sparky chitchat and everyone with a motive. This one was particularly blatant for that - one of those final scenes where each person in turn is accused of something. But then the sleuths say 'but not guilty of MURDER' and move to the next one. I find that tiresome because when the final one comes, you can't be sure...
      Funny that your nationality surprise was the opposite from mine!

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  2. Interesting era depicted here, Moira - just on the cusp of some big societal changes. I think I would get tired of the chauvinism, too, but the mystery sounds fun and light. And yes, where would we be without the requisite group of suspects, each with a motive? That can get irritating, but it's such a feature of some of those series from the era.

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    1. As we read a lot of old-time crime fiction we just have to get used to some of the attitudes in there, don't we? It didn't spoil the book anyway, and I would more by him.

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  3. Really want to sample this serie s- but this is not the right place to start, then, where?

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    1. If you're not bothered about reading them in strict order, then I liked Murder Maestro Please, and I think Corpse Diplomatique is good too....

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  4. This is on my TBR pile too--I've read several of the Ames books and enjoyed them very much.

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    1. I think I will definitely carry on reading this series. Will look out your reviews at the right time...

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  5. Moira, I'm familiar with Delano Ames though I haven't read any of his novels. And I did see the author featured on Col's blog. Time to read one of his books.

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    1. Yes, if Col and I both enjoyed them, they're probably right for you!

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  6. I have read this author, but so long ago I could not say which books. I remember liking them, but don't know if I will still have the same opinion nowadays. I have a few of them to read, but keep putting them off. I want to read She Shall Have Murder first, after that I may not worry about order.

    Very nice images on this one.

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    1. Sometimes I worry about book order, and want to read a series properly, but in this case I'm not worried. I'm guessing that in the first one Jane and Dagobert get together...

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