Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Old English Peep Show: Peter Dickinson

This month I read the first two books of the Superintendent James Pibble series by Peter Dickinson. My review of The Glass-Sided Ants' Nest, is here. Reading the second of the Superintendent Pibble stories, I continue to be besotted with Peter Dickinson's style of writing and his storytelling. And Pibble continues to be the character that enchants me.

At Peter Dickinson's website, The Old English Peep Show (also published as A Pride of Heroes) is described very briefly:
Pibble investigates the apparent suicide of a servant in a great English country house being run as a theme park, complete with lions, by two retired WWII heroes.
Dickinson calls his book "a baroque spoof." The San Francisco Chronicle said it was "a bit crazy, harrowingly suspenseful, surprising." And it is all of that. The thing that surprised me was that with all the elements of humor and caricature, the later part of the book still has definite thriller elements.

Pibble is an unusual protagonist, a middle-aged man with a wife who bullies him "into reading the Elsa books." (They figure into the story, of course.) He is sent off by Scotland Yard to handle the investigation of the loyal servant, Deakin, at Herryngs, not far from London. The two war heroes are twin brothers who have turned their home into "Old England" with tours and enactments of duels in order to keep it going financially. Shortly after Pibble arrives he senses that the family is hiding something.
I am being conned, he thought. I am a tiny figure in some larger drama of theirs, simply here to be gulled and sent home, more momentary and peripheral even than loyal old Deakin. I must do my duty by God and the Claverings, certify this suicide, touch my cap, and depart. Anyway, it is a certifiable suicide, not quite unfakable but as near as makes no difference.
Most of the characters outside of the Clavering clan are either devoted friends or servants, or dependent upon the family for their livelihood. Even the examining doctor and the son-in-law were participants in the raid that made the two brothers' famous and revered. So Pibble has difficulty finding anyone who does not follow the party line, even though he senses that something is amiss. And he keeps poking at things until he uncovers several layers of deception.

Like most of Dickinson's mystery novels, this won't appeal to everyone. I found it entertaining and a good puzzle, and it did succeed at thrilling me while examining class distinctions and politics and a multitude of other topics.

Many of Dickinson's novels are available as e-books at Open Road Integrated MediaAnd if you prefer print copies, as I do, you can get this book, The Glass-Sided Ants' NestSleep and his Brother, and King and Joker at Felony and Mayhem.



This book is my submission for 1969 for the Crimes of the Century meme at Past Offences.

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Publisher:   Felony & Mayhem, 2007 (orig. pub. 1969)
Length:      199 pages
Format:      Trade paperback
Series:       James Pibble #2
Setting:      UK
Genre:        Police procedural
Source:      I purchased my copy.


17 comments:

  1. Well, Tracy, after reading both reviews for this author you have convinced me I really need to get my hands on his books! I love 'different'. Great reviews!

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    1. Dickinson's books are definitely different, Peggy. And in a good way, entertaining and fun.

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  2. Thanks, Tracy, both for follow up with this series and for your thoughtful review. I really do need to try some Dickinson, as I have the feeling these novels might really appeal to me...

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    1. I hope you do try some Dickinson, Margot, and let us know what you think of them.

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  3. Tracy - you're still trying to tempt me, but it's a definite NO........for now at least!

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    1. Well, at least you are tempted, Col. I suspect you would get more out of this one than I did, in the way of humor, because it is set in the UK. A lot of it just passed me by, I am sure.

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  4. Another great sounding Dickinson title - right, my copy of DEATH OF A UNICORN is going straight to the top of the TBR - thanks Tracy.

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    1. I am eager to read the rest of the series, Sergio. I have a couple but not the 3rd one, so will have to look around. I do have DEATH OF A UNICORN and haven't read it yet. Maybe that one next.

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  5. Just checking in to let you know I'm reading the reviews.
    Have not been reading CF the last few months but enjoy learning about new writers via your blogposts! You will have an impressive 'list of books read' at the end of 2015!

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    1. Thanks, Nancy. Every time I check out your blog I am motivated to read some classics... shorter ones though. And I saw your No Sugar Challenge. Amazing.

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    2. 3rd week #NoSugar....much easier now. :)

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  6. Tracy, you are winning me over to this Pibble character. Yes, indeed you are. Slowly, I might add, but relentlessly. In fact, on my way out of the library in a few minutes I shall do a quick survey of the fiction shelves under "D."

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    1. He is a good character, Mathew, although the two Pibble books I have read so far are different from the other Dickinson books I have read.

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  7. I don't remember much about this one, though I did read, and have a copy somewhere. Pibble was a great character, and all Dickinson's books are very readable.

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    1. That is a good description, Moira. he is very readable. Even the books I ended up not caring for as much were good reads. The Last Houseparty disappointed me in the end, but I still would reread it, and maybe enjoy it more the next time.

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  8. Tracy, I like the unusual titles of his books, though I'm not sure just when I might get down to sampling the author's work.

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    1. If you ever have the time and the inclination, Prashant, I am sure you would enjoy his writing.

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