Tuesday, March 29, 2016

IN BRIEF: No Pockets in Shrouds - Louisa Revell

THE STORY: Self-confessed murder addict Julia Tyler has been keeping a scrapbook of interesting murder cases. She spies in one of her newspaper clippings a photo of an acquaintance and she takes advantage of that friend's open invitation to visit her and nose around in the murder. The story takes her to Louisville, Kentucky. Seems a butler was poisoned in the household of a wealthy Kentuckian and no one seems to know why he was killed. Julia thinks perhaps the patriarch was the intended target. Sure enough murder happens again while she is doing her Jane Marple impression. Involved inquest, suspicious relatives, plots and stratagems, and Revell's arch humor make for an engaging often very funny detective novel.

QUOTES: “It isn’t that I’m not scared to death; I am. The trip we took to New York scared me so I didn’t think I’d live to get there. But I did, in exactly one hour and seventeen minutes, and it taught me a lesson. You can stand almost anything for an hour and seventeen minutes.”

Her opinion of a tramp committing the butler's murder:
“A tramp on the fourth floor of a Louisville townhouse, especially anno Domini 1945 when -- whatever the other ills of our country -- tramps are as extinct as the American buffalo!”

On taking advantage of her friend’s gift for gab and asking prying questions about the murder:
“Charlotte was like the husbands who never dream their wives have married them for money.”

Real murder vs. fictional murder:
“That’s why for every fantastically reasoned murder book there are a dozen about rich people killed before they can change their wills. Fantasia makes interesting reading sometimes, but the old moth-eaten plots are real.”

Her instant dislike of Dr. Jordan:
“I admitted [I was a friend of the family], and added “Idiot” under my breath. Who did he think I was, the paperboy?”

SOME SOUTHERN IDIOMS: Title of the book comes from a Southern Black aphorism:
“[Gus] thought it was fine for [Breckenridge] to leave money to the church or the university library and the charities he was interested in: ‘There ain’t no pockets in shrouds, and the best pocket to leave your earthly substance in is the pocket of the Lord.’ said Gus to Breckinridge just before someone poisoned him.”

“Aunt Charlotte would have had a duck with lavender feathers if I’d stuck my nose out of the family vault.”

Isn't that bizarre? My parents used to say “Don't have a conniption fit”. In the 70s my friends and I used to say "Don't have a cow, man. Lighten up." I've read similar things like “have kittens” to express the same thing. All versions of a hyperbole for "being upset". But "having a duck with lavender feathers"? That one cracked me up.

THINGS I LEARNED: In my first blog post about Julia Tyler I mentioned the large part of the novel devoted to the toxic properties of sodium fluoride which was alternately fascinating and horrifying. Click here if you missed that post or are interested in knowing about that.

Hattie Carnegie, a popular clothing designer who I had never heard of, apparently is credited with inventing the “head to toe” designer look. She mass produced not only ready-to-wear designer clothing but various accessories meant to go with her clothing. In the long run she became best known for the accessories like her costume jewelry and hats rather than her clothing. Most of her clothes seem to be of the "sensible fashions" variety. But I did find some photos from vintage fashion magazines that seem fairly glamorous for the period like the one over there on the right.

Revell makes a big deal about the Kentucky Derby not being held in May for the first time since 1875. But this is wrong. It *was* held in May; on May 5, 1945 to be precise. There were times when it was held in June but every year during WW2 it was held in May. I have no idea what she was thinking or why she would make a statement so false, especially since this book wasn’t published until 1948.


  1. Replies
    1. Since this Friday is April Fool's Day I'm reviewing a comic crime novel. It isn't as uproariously funny as I had hoped, but it has its farcical moments. Stay tuned...

  2. This sounds good fun, and I do love reading about old-school designers in books, it adds so much for me. My avatar is a pic of Lilly Daiche, a millinery designer of the mid 20th C whom I first encountered via mentions in crime books. Perhaps I can take up Hattie Carnegie in the same way...