|US 1st edition |
(Doubleday Crime Club, 1976)
THE CHARACTERS: Morgan Astey does not plan to spend as much time in St. Martin ,but the disturbance to his half brother's grave raises a variety of question and the news of a possible Macumba cult involved is as fascinating to him as it is aggravating. Another thing that he finds curious is that everyone tells him that Eddie's face was unharmed in the accident, one that should have shattered his body as he supposedly lost control of his motorcycle near a craggy hairpin turn by a rocky cliffside. And yet Eddie's body suffered only a few broken bones and a broken neck. Morgan is further suspicious of foul play after talking to a knowledgeable mechanic working on repairs to Eddie's motorcycle. He tells Morgan of some strange things found on the bike that would be inconsistent with a wreck on that cliffside.
|UK 1st edition|
(Robert Hale, 1976)
One of the memorable supporting players is Detective Sergeant Wright whose skill in manipulating and exploiting people is enviable. Wright has made it his business to know everyone's business and he uses his knowledge of the private lives of St Martin's citizenry to his advantage. So talented is Wright is getting others to do his bidding that Morgan realizes almost too late the policeman has employed him as an unofficial investigator. In suggesting to Morgan mysterious aspects about Eddie's death and inveigling him to seek answers to those questions Wright manages to get Morgan to do his job for him. Toward the end of the book Wright congratulates Morgan for successfully acting out in this unofficial capacity in one of their many tea room conversations. The policeman has an almost unquenchable craving for the various bakery treats offered at the many tea shops and cafes in town. He is always meeting Morgan in one of these shops where he can get yet another sampling of a tasty biscuit or tea cake, always proffering them to Morgan who almost always refuses.
THINGS I LEARNED: 1. Pat, editor/reporter/Jill of all trades, has a habit of exclaiming “What the Betty Martin?” I thought maybe this was some sort of Cockney slang, but I was wrong. It’s a lot more involved than that. Ready?
On a Linguistics internet forum I discovered that the origin of this phrase first appeared in Brewer’s seminal Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. Brewer claims it comes from an anecdote about a sailor who overheard someone in a foreign church utter the Latin phrase “Ah mihi, bea’te Martine” (Ah grant me, Blessed Martine). And that the sailor “could not make much out of it but it seemed to him very much like ‘All my eye and Betty Martin.’” Brewer defines the phrase as a regionalism meaning something seen or heard is all nonsense.
|St. Martin of Tours and the beggar|
Then there is someone else who believes that the Latin phrase was alluded to in a poem by Coleridge that includes the lines: “ All my I! All my I!/He’s a heretic dog who but adds Betty Martin.” And that this led to the phrase becoming misheard and interpreted as “All my eye!” which gives us the commonly heard “All my eye and Betty Martin!” another slang phrase that means basically “What a load of malarkey!” a favorite Irish exclamation in the Norris household. In the US you often hear someone say (usually a mature and older person) “My eye!” when they disbelieve someone or think something is baloney.
All of it sounds like pretty good etymological research to me. You can decide on your own if the Latin for Blessed Martin or Blessed Mater later transmogrified into Betty Martin.
The differences between a snake and a legless lizard are numerous: snakes have no eyelids, legless lizards do; snakes have forked tongues, legless lizards do not, etc. In no way could it be confused with a worm. Part of Boyle’s research and one of the unusual mysteries solved involving what Pat and Morgan think is a strange hieroglyphic code reveals that the slow worms Boyle studies were taught to run through mazes. I can imagine a legless lizard, a snake like creature, learning to do this, but I absolutely cannot believe that a worm (as Davies thought the thing was) could be taught to navigate a maze no matter how simple or complex. In any case, he was terribly wrong about the creature that Boyle studies and it sort of ruins the book a bit when you get to that portion of the story.
|L. P. Davies (circa 1976)|