Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Death in the Stocks: Georgette Heyer

Last October, I read Envious Casca by Georgette Heyer. It had been a long time since I had read any of her mysteries, and I really enjoyed it. So, I decided to try another one, Death in the Stocks, the first of the novels featuring Superintendent Hannasyde as the detective. And, as luck would have it, I enjoyed this one just as much as Envious Casca. That may have been because I knew what to expect this time.

In a small English village, a man with a knife wound in his back is found dead, clapped in the stocks in the town square. The victim is identified as Arnold Vereker, who has been renting a cottage in the village and using it on weekends. The local police don't feel up to handling the investigation, and Superintendent Hannasyde of Scotland Yard is called in to work on the case. At first, suspicion falls on the dead man's half-sister, Antonia, who was at his house outside the village on the night he died. Her brother, Kenneth, is also a prime suspect because he is heir to Arnold’s considerable fortune. And they both freely admit that they despised Arnold. Their friends, lovers, and relatives provide some other suspects, but no one stands out as the culprit. Most of the investigation takes place in London, since all the suspects live there.


Of the two books by Heyer I have read recently, both are peopled mainly by unlikable characters.  Many of them are rich, or aspiring to be rich. I don't mind unappealing characters as long as they are entertaining, and that is true here. The dialogue between Antonia and her brother and their friends is very good and sometimes unbelievably odd.

I have also enjoyed the portrayal of servants in Heyer's books. In this one, Antonia and Kenneth's housekeeper and cook, Murgatroyd, is a wonderful character. She is is cranky and outspoken, but quite likable, always trying to keep Antonia and Kenneth in line.

The main draw of these mysteries is the combination of humor with a good mystery. They are also light-hearted romances, keeping you guessing as to who will pair with who. If you like mysteries in that vein, I think you would enjoy this story.

Other Sources:
Sparkling Murder at Tor.com
Reviews at Vintage Pop Fictions and In so many WORDS


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Publisher:  Sourcebooks Landmark, 2009 (orig. publ. 1935)
Length:     314 pages
Format:    Trade paperback
Series:      Superintendent Hannasyde #1
Setting:     UK
Genre:      Mystery
Source:     I purchased my copy


24 comments:

  1. Don't think i have ever read a Heyer. I will look for one of these to try.

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    1. I haven't ever read one of the Regency romances, Patti, but after reading the two mysteries recently, I want to try one.

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    2. My three favorite of her Regencies (and I am devoted to these) are COTILLION, THE GRAND SOPHY and FREDERICA, but I also recommend THE TALISMAN RING, ARABELLA and THE CORINTHIAN among a few others. SO much fun. Some of them actually make me laugh out loud. I envy you reading them for the first time. :)

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    3. I will definitely be reading The Grand Sophy as soon as I get a copy, Yvette, and I thank you for the other recommendations.

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  2. It has been many years since I read a book by this author. Though I think what I read were strictly romances. I'll have to keep her mysteries in mind too.

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    1. I am looking forward to trying one of her romances, Kay. I have a librarian friend who reads just about every every type of book, and she is a big fan of Heyer's romances.

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  3. You highlighted something important, I think, Tracy. Characters don't have to be sympathetic, so long as they are interesting or entertaining, so that the reader chooses to stay engaged. Glad you enjoyed this.

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    1. I have certainly found that to be true in these books, Margot. Sometimes I just want to tell these characters to grow up.

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  4. I read Death in the Stocks last year and thought it was delightful.

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    1. I agree with you, Debbie, there are some great characters in that story. And I have several more books with Superintendent Hannasyde.

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  5. I really like these ones too. Heyer has such a good way with snappy humorous dialogue between couples.

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    1. I look forward to having several more of these to read, Katrina. I am appreciating humor more now when I read.

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  6. I enjoy Heyer's mysteries as well, Tracy. I read DEATH IN THE STOCKS last year - actually listened to it on audio but I'd read the book sometime ago. I think I've read all the mysteries as well as most of her Regencies. Just a terrific writer. And her sense of humor is delightful.

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    1. I read some of these mysteries when I was younger, Yvette, but I don't think I appreciated the humor so much back then. It has been a lot of fun to read these.

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  7. Tracy, I have both of these! Can't wait to get to them.

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    1. I know that you will like these books, Peggy. At least I hope so.

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  8. I love the name Murgatroyd...ooooo yeah. And this one sounds like it belongs to a fun character. Never read Heyer, tho, Tracy, but your review is enticing.

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    1. I liked that name for a character, too, Mathew, and I don't think anyone ever uses her first name. It inspired me to look up the saying "Heavens to Murgatroyd" which I did not remember the history of.

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  9. I just read Envious Casca and haven't read anymore from her. Like you said, it's the humor in her books that makes me seek her out. Her romances are what she's known for but her mysteries aren't too bad. --Keishon

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    1. I never used to like humor in books so much, or a lot of dialogue either, but now I am really enjoying those elements, Keishon. And I always rejected romances but want to give them a try too.

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  10. I think this will be the next Heyer crime book I read - you have made it sound very entertaining! I read her first crime effort, Footsteps in the Dark, and it was very disappointing dull and kind of generic, none of her cleverness and wit. This sounds much better.

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    1. I had heard that Footsteps in the dark was not so good as the others, Moira, but I do hope to try them all. I did like Envious Casca better, a bit, but I think that was because it was such a surprise to me. I did like so much about Death in the Stocks though: the characters, likable or not; the humor.

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  11. Not one for me ever, I don't think. I usually prefer to read about the poor than the rich.

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    1. Interesting point, Col. I think I have mostly read for escape and relaxation, and reading about the poor is not relaxing. But I always have wondered why I like reading about the rich.

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