Sunday, February 09, 2014

Peter Lovesey. Swing, Swing Together (1976), Mad Hatter’s Holiday

     Peter Lovesey. Swing, Swing Together (1976) Harriet Shaw, skinny dipping with two of her classmates, witnesses suspects in a murder case. This is enough for Det. Sgt Cribb to take her along with him while he chases the suspects down the Thames. The story alludes to and loosely follows Three Men in a Boat (Jerome K. Jerome, 1889). It turns out that Harriet has in fact witnessed a murder in progress, done as a test of the method to be used on the intended victim. The chase ends in Oxford; the murderers did the job at the behest of a prison warden who was obsessed with his reputation for respectability. In the finale, Harriet is “rescued” from the advances of a lecherous don (whom she suspected of the crime) by the nice young constable who gallantly lent her his cape when she emerged from the Thames like Venus on the half shell, so that she could return to where she had left her clothes. So that’s all right. A nicely done entertainment; we saw it on TV some years ago, too. Lovesey does good mild social comedy and satire. **½ (2010)

     Mad Hatter’s Holiday Set in Brighton after the mass-holiday season, with an intricate plot, both as a murder mystery and as a family drama. We see most of it from the point of view of an almost pathetic little man, a dealer in optical instruments, who spends his holidays admiring women through his binoculars. But this time he falls hard for his fantasy mistress, strikes up an acquaintance with her and her family, and assists Det. Sgt. Cribb and Thackeray with his naive and painfully respectable evidence. The murderer, a nasty adolescent sociopath, is murdered, but Cribb doesn’t pursue the matter. He’s satisfied to know the truth, while the coroner’s inquest returns a verdict of murder by person(s) unknown. Well done. **½ (2010)

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