Monday, March 19, 2012

Heads You Lose: Christianna Brand

About Christianna Brand. From the author description at Goodreads.

"She was born Mary Christianna Milne in 1907 in Malaya and spent her early years in India. She had a number of different occupations, including model, dancer, shop assistant and governess.

Her first novel, Death in High Heels, was written while Brand was working as a salesgirl. In 1941, one of her best-loved characters, Inspector Cockrill of the Kent County Police, made his debut in the book Heads You Lose. The character would go on to appear in seven of her novels. Green for Danger is Brand’s most famous novel. The whodunit, set in a World War 2 hospital, was adapted for film by Eagle-Lion Films in 1946, starring Alastair Sim as the Inspector. She dropped the series in the late 1950s and concentrated on various genres as well as short stories."

I was surprised to find out that Christianna Brand had only written seven mysteries featuring Inspector Cockrill. With that few, I could easily read them all. But after reading this one, I am not so sure I want to.  I have read some of her novels in the distant past I am sure, but it is long enough ago that I don't remember which ones.

Most of the action takes place in a mansion outside a small village. The owner of Pigeonsford Estate has five friends currently visiting when the murder takes place. Inspector Cockrill has known most of this group for years. It appears that one of them must be the murderer but he can't believe it is any of them.

What are my issues with this book? I am not sure. I felt the pacing was good, and read the book in less than two days ... fast for me. I did not have to force myself to finish it. I love the country house mystery sub-genre. But I think the characters were a bit shallow for me and I could not get to like them.

The revelation of the culprit was also a disappointment. I had considered that this character was the most likely suspect, but the explanation left me cold.  On the other hand, I know that mystery writer's essentially are creating fantasy situations that the reader must accept. Had I enjoyed the journey to the end more, I would have ignored my disappointment.

This is the first book in the series, and only the second novel published by Brand. I have read that Green for Danger, the second book in the series, is much better, and I am reading that next. I hope to find that I like it. I have seen the movie based on the book (also titled Green for Danger), and enjoyed it a lot. I know that the movie is a bit different, and I have (conveniently) forgotten the ending, so that won't be a problem.

Other reviews:
At a lovely site featuring Vintage Penguin paperbacks: A Penguin a week

Full of information: at the Golden Age of Detection Wiki

In-depth, and with great comments: at Mystery*File

This counts as one of my books for the following challenges:
Mt. TBR Challenge
Read Your Own Books Challenge
A-Z Challenge
Vintage Mystery Challenge
Cruisin' Thru the Cozies Challenge
1st in a Series Challenge
Merely Mystery Reading Challenge
Mystery & Suspense Reading Challenge


Karyn Reeves said...

Hi Tracy,

Thanks for the mention. This was the third Christianna Brand book I had read and I came to it with high expectations, and was therefore very disappointed by what seemed to be an unnecessarily gruesome approach to a murder mystery. I can recommend Green for Danger though, which I still consider one of the most interesting crime novels I have read, and London Particular was fine, though less impressive.

neer said...

Tracy, I just finished the book (will be reviewing it soon) but wasn't too impressed. Like you, I too found the characters unlikable though Henry Gold was okay. The end too was disappointing and the class-divide made me uncomfortable. All in all, not what I expected from Brand.

TracyK said...

Agreed, Neer. I was sorry that this was the first book by Brand that I read since it soured me on her for a while. But I did read Green for Danger and it was definitely an improvement. I have a couple more to try.