Friday 10 July 2020

Forgotten Book - Mind Your Own Murder

Mind Your Own Murder was Yolanda Foldes' solitary venture into detective fiction. The author's real name was Jolan Foldes, and she was Hungarian, but emigrated to Britain in 1941. At that time she was already established as a highly capable novelist. This book was published in 1948, but set during the war. Foldes' English is so good that I wouldn't have guessed it wasn't her first language. In fact, I felt the novel was conspicuously well-written.

I've been interested in this one since Kate Jackson gave it a rave review on her Cross-Examining Crime blog. And the premise is certainly worthy of note. The setting is a country house, and this is one of those Golden Age-style stories in which a very wealthy old person torments his relatives by threatening to cut them out of his will. So far, so formulaic. The difference is that old John Marchmont has constructed a bizarre and elaborate scheme. He is terminally ill and he challenges his four male heirs as follows - whichever one of you murders me will inherit my fortune.

We are introduced to the characters at first by a female member of the family, Genia, and events are at first seen from her perspective before the viewpoint begins to shift around. I felt that rather too many people were introduced too quickly and it took me a while to get them straight in my head. When the fun and games about the will began, I admit to becoming rather frustrated by the endless talkiness of the story. There wasn't enough variety for me, and the touch wasn't as light as, say, Agatha Christie's.

As a result, I found myself hoping that the irritating and foolish old bloke would get his come-uppance sooner than proved to be the case, and that the endless debate between his heirs would come to an end. Relief eventually came thanks to the intervention of an appealing character called Robinson, who is by far the most likeable person in the book. But I didn't much care about the rest of them, and I cottoned on to the identity of the culprit quite early, since I thought I recognised a particular storytelling trick - and so it proved. I can't say I share Kate's enthusiasm for this novel, but it is nonetheless an interesting, relatively late, example of the classic country house detective story.

No comments: