Sunday, 7 May 2017

Dress Down Sunday: The Case of the Tudor Queen by Christopher Bush

 
published 1938

 

LOOKING AT WHAT GOES ON UNDER THE CLOTHES




Case of the Tudor Queen


[A maid is being asked to look at the belongings of her dead employer]

‘The clothes all right?’

‘I think so,’ she said, then frowned. ‘I don’t remember these, though.’

‘Which?’ Wharton said, and came nearer to relieve the embarrassment. ‘I see. Cami-knickers. What’s wrong with them?’

‘Well’ – she flushed slightly – they’re out of date. And she wouldn’t have had artificial silk, like this. All her things are crepe de chine.’

‘But she might have had them, unknown to you?’

‘Well she might. But they look almost new.’

‘Ah well,’ said Wharton, ‘we’ll leave them here and they won’t run away. What about her jewellery? Where’s that kept?’

‘In the bank, except what she used to call the little things.’

‘Various items here, sir,’ cut in Lewis.

‘Right,’ said Wharton… He moved off through the door with her still talking. The door closed. Lewis gave a wink.

‘Not a bad little piece that, sir?’

‘I’m no judge,’ Travers said, ‘but I won’t disagree.’


commentary: A while back we looked at the right and wrong underwear for someone involved in a murder, a few years later than this book. Here the rather valuable clue of the underwear is going to be ignored for quite a while. (Too busy objectifying the maid.) The murder victim is an actress, Mary Legreye, who has been playing the Tudor Queen of the title. Her dead body is found in her cottage, staged as if she were still in the play. A male servant is also dead in another room. It’s an intriguing setup, and inclines the reader to forgive the idea that the Supertintendent from Scotland Yard is getting help from a rich enthusiastic amateur, Ludovic Travers, a man with a dedicated manservant. The three of them tumble on the murder almost by accident, meeting the maid above wandering around country lanes.

Apparently Bush wrote 85 books in all, SIXTY ONE of them mysteries featuring Travers, and this is 17th in the series. He published them all between 1926 and 1968. The mind boggles, especially as he seems completely forgotten now. I would love to get hold of his Dancing Death – as reviewed at the Passing Tramp here – but the only copies around are ridiculously expensive. It’s a book about a fancy dress party in a snowed in house during the Christmas season – nothing could be more up my street.

After reading Curt’s review I said:
I remember liking a certain brittle 30s atmosphere about his books: weekend cottages in the country, having a place on the river, theatrical riffraff mixing with the nobs.
- and I think I was talking particularly about this book, which presents quite the picture of 30s England at various levels.

As a murder story it sags in the middle, I found it hard to keep an interest up in the minutiae of the investigation, and the attitudes towards women are rather depressing, though very much of their time. (See the winking policeman above.) But actually the final section – Part Two: The Solution – perked me up no end, it was unexpectedly engrossing and clever, and had been beautifully worked out. So I would definitely read more – and Bush himself sounds like a most interesting person.

John over at Pretty Sinsister books looked at another of the series here.

Picture of silk underwear from the NYPL .





















8 comments:

  1. I have to admit, I've not read this one, Moira. And I think that treatment of women would bother me quite a lot. Still, I can see how the clothes part of it would be right up your street. I'm glad you found things to like with this one.

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    1. Yes, it was very much of its time I would say Margot. Sometimes that gives books a pass, and sometimes it doesn't. This one is 50/50. And it was an easy read.

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  2. Moira: Your mention of the right underclothes to wear when involved in murder reminded me of a scene in Hang Down Your Head by Janice MacDonald when her sleuth, university lecturer Randy Craig, doing some sleuthing while trying on high end clothing tries to reassure herself that her almost new bra is appropriate for the store.

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    1. I am finally getting round to this author, as recommended by you Bill - have picked up Another Margaret, and by the sound of things will then be moving on to her other books. Thanks for the tipoff!

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  3. I would not mind trying this author, I will look around. I had Dancing Death on my list of Christmas books to look for someday, but now I am forewarned about the price.

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    1. I know - I will keep looking for it, hoping that a cheaper version of it will come up some time.

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