Wednesday, May 6, 2015

IN BRIEF: Murder Fantastical – Patricia Moyes

This was a delight! Whip smart, devilishly plotted, and funny as can be with a range of jolly moods from outlandish farce to wry wit. Reduced to its bare essence it's a country house murder mystery, but Moyes manages to avoid all the stodginess and claustrophobia that typifies this subgenre. With echoes of Ellery Queen’s There Was an Old Woman in the assortment of wackos and eccentrics in the Manciple family who dominate the large cast of characters and a nod, whether conscious or not, to John Rhode’s bizarre death traps in an ingeniously thought out method of killing someone Murder Fantastical is enlivened by unexpected character touches and a vigorous sense of humor. I’m sure I’ve read books by Moyes in the past but I can’t recall any of them. I certainly don’t remember having previously read Murder Fantastical (1967), an involved and quite imaginatively constructed novel.

Inspector Henry Tibbet has his hands full with the seemingly accidental shooting death of Raymond Mason who has been harassing the Manciples both in his attempts to acquire their land and his vociferous complaints about the shooting range on their property that he claims is a danger to the public. Tibbet’s investigation of the fatal accident uncovers a family history shrouded in secrets and tainted by violent deaths. When old Aunt Dora becomes a second victim Tibbet thinks he may have a homicidal maniac on his hands. He must dig into the Manciple family past tracing back unresolved troubles that have their origin in the jungles of a mythical African country where the family once lived. Impersonations, avarice and narcissism all play a part in this highly recommended mystery.

I enjoyed this so much I’ll be reading as many Patricia Moyes books as I can get my hands on. I can only hope the others are as lively and puzzling as this intricately plotted detective novel.

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Reading Challenge update: Silver Age card, space V3 – “Book read by another challenger”
Bev read this back in March of this year and I suggest you read her fine review at My Reader’s Block for further details. Also, check out Jeff Pierce’s unlikely rave review of Murder Fantastical posted back in 2010 at The Rap Sheet.

11 comments:

  1. I'm so glad you enjoyed this, John! It was delightful, wasn't it? And thanks much for the mention and link to my review.

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    1. De nada, amigo! Over the next two weeks I'll be posting a slew of these "IN BRIEF" reviews to catch up with all the books I read during March and April but never had time to write up. I'm planning to post one a day until I'm done. I've got another post that will display my amazing progress on both Bingo cards, too.

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  2. I have never before heard of this author. I am intrigued by your review.
    I could not obtain this book. However, I have obtained another book by the author A Six-Letter Word For Death.

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    1. I've just learned that she's inconsistent and not as inventive in her later work, Santosh. I hope the one you chose which is close the end of her career doesn't let you down. I know that her first two -- Dead Men Don't Ski and The Sunken Sailor (aka Down Among the Dead Men) -- have been much praised. I'm planning on reading and reviewing both of those.

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  3. You may have seen on my blog over the last 2 or 3 years several reviews of Moyes books for Friday Forgotten Books. I love Moyes Tibbett mysteries and always recommend them.

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  4. Abe Books has a bunch of Moyes books, so, inspired by your enthusiasm, I'll be ordering a couple. One is called NIGHT FERRY TO DEATH - oooh, love that title. Ordered a hard cover copy of MURDER FANTASTICAL. I don't mind paperbacks, but if I can get the hard cover copy, I'll always prefer that. Don't remember ever reading any Moyes though her name is certainly familiar.

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  5. This is one of my favorites by Moyes - delighted that you liked it. I think you'll enjoy "Dead Men Don't Ski" also - and, although it's been quite a while since I read it - Santosh may enjoy "A Six-Letter Word for Death," which, IIRC, re-introduces the Manciple family.

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    1. Yes, the book A Six-Letter Word For Death reintroduces the Manciple family. Though it is suspenseful and a page-turner, I was disapointed with the ending, since I found the solution highly contrived.

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  6. I have since obtained Dead Men Don't Ski and Down Among The Dead Men though I am yet to start reading them.
    I could not get Murder Fantastical anywhere here. Of course, I can import a used copy from Abe Books but it will cost me about 13 dollars (3 dollars for the book and 10 dollars for shipping !)

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    1. Yet to read those, Santosh. Last week I started The Coconut Killings which was given high praise in Catalog of Crime and quickly grew tired of it. The plot presents a poorly imagined case of racial tension in a story about a black man is accused of killing a white American senator on a golf course at an island resort. It paled in comparison to what is going on in Missouri and Maryland. I just couldn't buy into its very tame, very tastefully presented examples of rebellion. Seemed very naïve to me. I gave up on it and returned it to the library.

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  7. Just finished reading it and LOVED IT TO PIECES. The Manciple family - what a cast of loonies. SO much fun! It is a thorough delight, except for the little bit at the end with that fool of a girl. You know what I mean. At any rate, I found a nice hardcover copy at Abe Books and ipso factor, it was delivered very promptly and I gobbled it up. I also read DEAD MEN DON'T SKI and now, as I mentioned in another comment, I'm on a dangerous binge. Ha.

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