Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Affair of the Mutilated Mink: James Anderson

It is the 1930's, the Golden Age of the studio system in Hollywood. The Earl of Burford is smitten with films and especially with actors such as Errol Flynn and Rex Ransom. So when Hollywood producer Cyrus S. Haggermeir wants to use his country house for his next picture, Lord Burford invites him, and the star of his next film, Rex Ransom, to visit for a few days. The Countess is not pleased. And for this interesting weekend, a series of unplanned guests stream in until they have a large house party with a diverse set of characters.

This book is the second in a series of three country house mysteries by James Anderson. I had already read the first one (in 2005), and I remember enjoying that book very much. Why did it take me so long to get around to this one? Well, first I had to acquire a copy, and then, well... there are so many books I want to read. So, I just now got around to reading this one.

The Affair of the Mutilated Mink has a very convoluted plot and the surprises keep coming to the very end. It is definitely a humorous mystery. I am prejudiced against humor in mysteries but this one proves how wrong I can be. It was laugh out loud funny at times, and I did have affection for many of the characters. Even the irritating daughter (Lady Gwendolyn) who can't decide between two beaus, and plays them against each other.

I read this mystery as my choice for a mystery parody for the Merely Mystery Reading Challenge 2012. This book is often cited in reviews as a parody. But the definition I read of a parody implies some derision of the genre or author being parodied, and I don't see that in this book at all. One definition at dictionary.com was "a humorous or satirical imitation of a serious piece of literature or writing." I will go with that version.

One does get a clue that this is written with a tongue-in-cheek attitude when fictional detectives John Appleby and Roderick Alleyn are mentioned as possible investigators who could be called in to solve the case.

I am a big fan of the country house mystery sub-genre. I re-discovered this when I read Farthing, the first book in an alternate history series by Jo Walton. I loved especially the interplay between the upper classes and the servants. That element is not so prevalent in this mystery, although Merryweather the butler plays a  significant role.

There are excellent reviews of this series out there, if you are interested in knowing more about each book. Here are a few of them:

William I. Lengeman III has a detailed article at criminalelement.com with the title "Murder Among the Gentry: James Anderson’s Country House Mysteries." He also has individual posts on the books at his own blog, Traditional Mysteries. This mystery novel is also reviewed in detail here at the blog, At the Scene of the Crime. This blogger notes that this book is really a tribute rather than a parody.


Prashant C. Trikannad said...

I have never read a country-house mystery before and the title on this one is prompting me to give it a go. I like a bit of humour in anything I read, be it mystery or cold war fiction. But then, humour is my favourite genre fiction.

Katrina said...

I love country house mysteries and crime with some humour thrown in so I'm adding this to my ever lengthening list. Thanks.

Peggy Ann said...

Tracy I think I would love this series! Off to see of I can find them or at least one of them. Thanks!

Sarah said...

A great title although to be honest, I don't really like humorous mysteries so it's probably not one for me. But still, great title!