LOOKING AT WHAT GOES ON UNDER THE CLOTHES
“Mr. Craig— assaulted one of the maids, sir."
"Assaulted one of the maids?" repeated Hazlitt, not without surprise. "Why— and how?"
"Really, sir." The butler shifted uneasily. "I'd rather you learned the details from the young person herself."
"Oh, very well. Sergeant!"
Hardinge was sent in search of Susan York.
When she finally appeared and took the butler's place in the chair before the table, Lawrence recognized the shapely hipped young housemaid who had brought sandwiches to his bedroom. Her flimsy negligee displayed her pretty figure to pleasant advantage, and a wide blue ribbon lent a provocative touch to her loosened hair. She turned wide brown eyes on the Inspector. Hazlitt coughed. "You are Susan York?"
"That's right, sir." Her voice was soft and pleasing, with an overlay of movie-brand sophistication.
Algy looked at her with interest. The curve of her mouth was pertly attractive: he wondered if Uncle Russ had thought so, too.
commentary: You have to expect scenes like this if you read 1950s crime stories. When questioned further about the assault, we get this:
A twinkle of amusement danced in Susan's eyes. She said demurely: "He smacked me. Hard. On the bottom." And she rubbed her chubby buttocks reminiscently.There’s quite a similar scene in another 1950s crime story, Alex Atkinson’s Exit Charlie, relevant blogpost here: this was obviously seen as snigger-worthy but not wrong, by all parties concerned.
What is also bothering me is that she turns up to an interview with the police in a flimsy negligee – even if it is the middle of the night, I find that hard to believe. Surely some attentive older member of staff - Mrs Patmore or Mrs Hughes from Downton Abbey - would have pushed her into a sensible woolly dressing-gown.
My friend Chrissie Poulson brought the book to my attention, and I can’t improve on her description:
It is a familiar set-up – family curse, eldest son murdered in a locked and guarded room at midnight – but done with tremendous verve. The first murder is followed up by one almost as mystifying, but in a different location. I was gripped from beginning to end. The clues were planted perfectly fairly, but the trick with this kind of novel is to keep you reading at such a lick that you go galloping past them without noticing.-- and she too found some of the scenes with women eyebrow-raising.
But it is a classic fun read of a certain kind. At first I was highlighting, with disdain, passages like this, about our sleuth Algy, the unofficial detective:
Fortunately his parents, besides providing him with good health, a keen brain, and a romantic disposition, had left him an adequate private income. And he had a good friend in Chief Inspector Stephen Castle. The burly man, shrewdly divining the young man's deep sense of frustration, had directed Algy's talents and interests into suitable channels. Lawrence had quickly proved his worth. He was an amateur but he was also a specialist….[He] was popular with the men of the C.I.D.But after a while I was prepared to just enjoy the story. And now Chrissie has recommended another good book by him which I will certainly also be reading…
Picture shows actress Carole Landis, and seemed in the spirit of Susan’s nightwear.