Monday, 23 November 2015
Dead in the Morning by Margaret Yorke
He went into the chemist’s shop and stood patiently waiting to be served among a cluster of mothers and two middle-aged women.
“Mrs Ludow’s tablets, please,” said one of these older women briskly when her turn came. The name caught Patrick’s attention… He looked at her more sharply while she made some other purchases. She was a tall, striking woman wearing a green jersey suit; her ash-coloured hair was swept up round her head in a becoming manner; she wore glasses and had plain pearl studs in her ears.
[Later that day] “Who was that?” asked Patrick Grant, coming out of the door of Reynard’s to speak to his sister. Jane, in faded jeans and a tartan shirt, stood in the vegetable patch waving at a young girl on a cycle who had just passed the cottage.
“It’s Cathy Ludlow. A nice child, refreshingly old-fashioned,” said Jane, stooping to pick some chives. “The big house at the end of the lane belongs to her grandmother.”
commentary: Yet again, Tracy at Bitter Tea and Mystery is to blame. She reviewed this book recently, and I found it on my shelves and polished it off in a day. This was the first of Yorke’s Patrick Grant novels, and is light-hearted and agreeable. Grant is an Oxford don: visiting his sister, he gets tied up in the world of the Ludlow family – those are his first encounters above. It is a very classic crime novel of a certain kind: the family are rich, with a great sense of entitlement, and some of them are nice and some of them are not-so-nice. A new wife is about to be introduced. There will be a death – and it’s not certain who was meant to die. Absolutely everyone in the family is slowly revealed as having had motive and opportunity. I had to draw a family-tree to work out the relationships, which seemed unnecessarily complex.
The perpetrator and the motive were both easily guessable AND ludicrous, which was quite an achievement – but I still enjoyed the book enormously. The tense family conversations were well done, and Grant is always teetering on the edge of being annoying without falling in. It is very much of its time – the clothes, the food, the attitudes. And also the charity ‘flagday’ (never called that now) which enables Patrick Grant to gatecrash a family party to ask for money. This collection is relevant to the murder, but I found it even more interesting that the ‘new wife’ character is gently teased for not realizing that she doesn’t have to give money to charity – her husband will take care of that now.
When I looked up Yorke after reading this, I found she had written a huge number of books – novels and crime stories. Martin Edwards has written about her several times on his blog – he knew her well. She died in 2012.
Green suit lady from the Vivat Vintage archive. Tartan-shirted gardener from the State Library of Queensland – used previously for this entry.