Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The Murder of My Aunt: Richard Hull


Edward, the main character and narrator of this novel, is a self-centered, amoral, spoiled brat. He lives with his aunt and depends on her to provide money for his needs. The money she gives him is not enough to support himself unless he lives with her, and he is unwilling to find work in order to provide his own support. Naturally he resents the situation and his aunt. So he decides to do away with her, and spends most of his time plotting her demise.

They live in the lovely town of Llwll, in Wales, and he detests the area, of course. No decent roads to drive his car on. Too much rain. And not enough culture.

This story is an inverted mystery. In that sort of book, the reader knows who commits the crime, and the remainder of the book is devoted to how he or she is caught. Well, usually. Just as there are many sub-genres of crime fiction, there are different types of inverted mystery. In this case, the planning for the crime takes up most of the book and the investigation is hardly there. But it is still a very good and very interesting story, just different.

I cannot help but compare this story to Malice Aforethought, which shares some characteristics with this book. Both are inverted mysteries, and both feature unlikable main characters. Yet I enjoyed this one much more than Malice Aforethought. In The Murder of My Aunt, the unpleasant characters are much more fun and the secondary characters were more realistic. Not everyone likes this type of mystery, but if you like something different now and then, I would recommend this book. The characterization is very good, and there are surprises at the end.

I will be seeking out more of Richard Hull's books. This book is available in a British Library edition with an introduction by Martin Edwards. The edition I have, from International Polygonics, has a different introduction which is also very interesting. One warning: There is an incident with a pet which doesn't end well. That is my sole complaint against this book.

Other posts on this book, most with much more detail than I have provided:

At JASON HALF : writer.
At crossexaminingcrime.
At His Futile Preoccupations...
At Bill Crider's Pop Culture Magazine, a lovely paperback cover post.


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Publisher:   International Polygonics, 1979 (orig. pub. 1934)
Length:      174 pages
Format:      Paperback
Setting:      Wales
Genre:        Inverted Mystery
Source:      Purchased at the Planned Parenthood book sale, 2018.



26 comments:

  1. I'm glad you enjoyed this one, Tracy. I very, very much want to read it, and it's good to know you're interested in reading more of Hull's work.

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    1. I would love to hear what you think of Hull's book when you read it, Margot.

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  2. I don't mind inverted mysteries, but I'm not sure this particular one is for me, it just doesn't sound that intriguing.

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    1. This one is quite different, Rick, and I can understand why you might not like it. I especially liked the twist, which is not that unexpected, but still managed to surprise me.

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  3. I have this one, Tracy! Haven’t read it yet though. I think I’ll like the setting of Wales. I’ve read Death of My Aunt by CHB Kitchin. I always get these two confused. It was good. Have Death of My Uncle to read now.

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    1. The setting is very nice, Peggy. I learned a new word. He talks a lot about a dingle, which is a "a deep wooded valley or dell." I got the drift, but I wish I had looked it up before the end of the book.

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    2. And, Peggy, I forgot to say I want to find some books by CHB Kitchin to try.

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  4. Hi Tracy! So happy to see you enjoyed this Richard Hull book. Many of his stories have a great ironic humor running through them. You probably have found reviews to help you pick out future books by the accountant-turned-author. For me (and for what it's worth), his titles Excellent Intentions, Murder Isn't Easy, and My Own Murderer are all great and enjoyable reads. I look forward to hearing what you think about future Hull books.

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    1. Jason, when I was putting together my thoughts on this book, I found out (remembered) that I had purchased a copy of Murder Isn't Easy. I had not cataloged it and it was sitting at the bottom of a stack. So now it is easy to know which one I will read next. And I will definitely get a copy of Excellent Intentions.

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    2. I think you'll enjoy Murder Isn't Easy -- there are a lot of positive similarities to Aunt, including a grumbling, comically conceited narrator character and a mischievous tone. Hull also plays with structure conventions in this one. Excellent Intentions is an intriguing courtroom/crime investigation story, and also (like Aunt) a story whose title resonates when the book is finished. I look forward to reading what you think in a future review.

      Also, Tracy, I want to extend an invite to you to join a group Internet reading project I've announced for November. I would email you, but I don't see contact info. You can find the event details on my blog page at jasonhalf.com . Hope you might be interested in taking part!

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  5. Glad you've given the inverted mystery another go. I agree Hull does make his own mark within the subgenre and is not 100% imitating Berkeley, though Hull does acknowledge him as a significant influence. I love the cover of your edition as I've not come across it before, but I can see how it better captures the sort of person Edward is. Other editions with Edward on tend to make him more lean and Wimsey like.

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    1. The introduction for the copy I have mentioned that he credits Berkeley as giving him the inspiration, Kate. Very interesting. I have enjoyed some more recent inverted mysteries (The Suspect by L. R. Wright and The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino), and I liked Portrait of a Murderer very much. But previously I had had problems finding more of them, and now I am glad I have found more to try.

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  6. I'm find myself quite intrigued by this one. I like the cover as well. Maybe I'll go look it up - I really need more books!

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    1. I know, Col, I don't need any books either and I bought a ton at the book sale. This one I actually found at the book sale this year. I do think you might like this one.

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  7. Tracy, some of the spy fiction novels I have read actually read like inverted mysteries and I'm fine with knowing who the culprit or murderer is. It doesn't take away the suspense for me. I liked the cover illustrations; they remind me of Charles Dickens in my school days.

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    1. You are so right, Prashant, I had never thought of spy novels having the inverted format. I do love those too. As you know. I always say it comes down to the author's ability; I like just about any style of story when the writing is good.

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  8. "...incident with a pet..." That's all I need to hear, Tracy. I'm also not a big fan of inverted mysteries. Though I have read a couple that have worked, it's not something I'm especially fond of. But I love the illustrations. :)

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    1. I don't like to mention much of the plot, Yvette, but I feel like enough readers have a problem like that where they want to know in advance about animal treatment. I am still glad I read it though. And the cover, back and front, is terrific.

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  9. This is another one I read a long time ago. At the Bodies from the Library conference in London this summer there was a most interesting talk on Richard Hull, which made me want to do some reading and re-reading, so I got a copy of his Excellent Intentions. Will get to it soon...

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    1. Moira, I had never heard of Richard Hull until recently, when the books started being reprinted. So this is a great discovery for me, since I have always sought out inverted mysteries, but not so great to be adding a new author to my piles. Oh well.

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  10. From the looks of the cover, Tracy, this book seems like it might be a perverted twist on A Confederacy of Dunces. And I'm with Yvette on the "incident with a pet" caveat. But that doesn't rule out reading it, and I just might!

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    1. There are other books by him available now, Mathew, and some of them on Kindle. I would love to hear your take on any of his books.

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  11. I started to say, Tracy, where do you find these books? Then I saw the links. This sounds great, thanks.--Keishon

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    1. Keishon, I probably never would have discovered Hull without the reissues and other bloggers who had been looking for and enjoying his books. He had never been on my radar. But I have always looked for inverted mysteries, usually unsuccessfully, so that got my attention.

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  12. This cover is great. The days when illustrations mattered, not just fonts.

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    1. I know what you mean, Kathy. I also like that both the front and the back have great illustrations and not covered with a lot of blurbs.

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