Monday, October 31, 2016

Halloween Night Frights: 5 Scary Movies I Like

I've done this sort of Halloween post before, but for those of you who may have missed it (or them), let's have a do-over. (Plus it seems as if Google has made it impossible to search my blog for titles of long lost posts.) The movies I like may not be the best movies ever, they rarely are, but they are the movies that I liked and continue to like best.

With rare exceptions I am a purist, I am not fond of technicolor (or any other color) horror movies. I like my spine tingling chills in black and white. For me, scary movies from the 50's, 60's, 70's (well, you get my drift) were always TOO gory and catsup colored - no thanks. (Sorry, Sergio!)

So, having said that, here we go:

The order of these movies can be shuffled about easily so don't take the numbers thing too seriously. And of course there are many, MANY other titles I could have included, all from the golden age of movie making (at least, far as I'm concerned). But these 5 are, I think, a good representation of the best in stylish ghoulishness. Can't disregard that pesky thing called 'style'.

1) THE UNINVITED (1944) starring Ray Milland, Ruth Hussey and Gail Russell. Directed by Lewis Allen. This is the absolutely perfect Halloween movie. Eerie, atmospheric, beautifully photographed, minimalist in tone yet gloriously gloomy. It's all there: An old house pulsing with mystery, perched on the edge of a cliff, a weeping ghost and a very satisfying ending. Of course, being that there's a cliff we not only get the sounds of waves crashing against the rocks, we also get a story of how, long ago, someone fell to their death over those very cliffs. It doesn't hurt the suspense any when the things we expect happen anyway.

The house, newly purchased at a very cheap price (uh-oh) by a composer (Ray Milland) and his sister (Ruth Hussey), contains, along with a gorgeous entryway and fabulous staircase,  an icy menacing presence (whom we don't see except vaguely in one scene) and the sound of ghostly crying in the night.

Almost from the first, the fight is on for the life of a young and impressionable girl played by perpetually bewildered Gail Russell. The only weak link in the chain is Russell's 'English' accent which is a total failure, but she is so beautiful in this that it hardly matters. My review.

2) SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939) starring Boris Karloff, Basil Rathbone, Lionel Atwill and Bela Lugosi. Directed by Rowland V. Lee. My favorite Frankenstein movie (except for the Abbott and Costello one). NOTHING can top Basil Rathbone's frenzied, wild-eyed performance as Wolf von Frankenstein as he goes over the top once he discovers that, yes, his dad was capable of doing the unthinkable.

To my eye, the second most memorable thing about the film is the setting which includes a very bizarre and angular central hall (torture chamber school of interior design) in a home purporting to be a place where the Frankenstein family will raise their young son (who, by the way, has a Southern accent - don't ask, I have no clue). Third most memorable is the Frankenstein monster himself, played by Karloff as he skulks about behind the walls of the castle, gleefully kept in check by Ygor (Bela Lugosi) who uses him as a revenge tool to do away with the members of a jury which condemned him (Ygor) to death by hanging. A hanging which, obviously, didn't take.

Anyway, LOVE this movie which also features an enormously engaging performance by Lionel Atwill as Inspector Krogh, a dogged policeman with a wooden arm. My review.

3) CAT PEOPLE (1942) a Val Lewton film directed by Jacques Tourneur, starring Simone Simon, Kent Smith and Tom Conway. LOVE this movie most especially for the fabulous camera work and menacing atmosphere. Almost everything that happens here happens in our imagination, THAT'S why this is such a frightening film.

There's very little excess of anything, except that you KNOW something is percolating beneath the surface and when oh when will it spring out and grab you. See, there's this young Serbian woman (beautiful in a cat-like way, of course and played by the always slightly off kilter Simone Simon) that believes she is descendant from a race of people who turn into cats when angry or sexually aroused (though of course that is not mentioned explicitly). We first meet Irena at the zoo where she is sketching a black panther unhappily pacing back and forth in a cage in the old fashioned way of zoos. The film takes place in some mid-western American town, far as I can tell.

Along comes Oliver, played by the always hapless and clueless Kent Smith, and of course he falls in love with Irena. And before he has a chance to realize that maybe this is not such a great idea (Irena's strange beliefs for one), they're married. Soon though, cracks develop in the happy facade of connubial bliss.

Irena, it turns out, has a real problem with jealousy. She fixates on her hubby's co-worker, the equally hapless Jane Randolph as Alice, whom Oliver likes to confide in. Naturally enough, this doesn't go down well with the new bride. And before you know it, all manner of strangeness is lurking about in the shadows. The frightening swimming pool scene alone is worth the price of admission.

Desperate for help, Irena consults the sleaziest psychiatrist in the history of film, Dr. Judd, played by the perennially unsavory Tom Conway. And well, things go even more downhill from there.

I know I reviewed this film somewhere on my blog, but darn if I can find it.

4) THE WOLF MAN (1941) starring Lon Chaney Jr., Claude Rains, Maria Ouspenskaya, Warren William, Bela Lugosi, Patric Knowles and Ralph Bellamy. A great cast well directed by George Waggner. When I was a kid we always referred to Lon Chaney Jr. as Larry 'Wolfman' Talbot no matter what movie he was in. Anyway, this is the film that brought him eternal fame. Though of course, his dad was an even more famous silent film actor and creator of monsters on his own.

Long story short: Lawrence Talbot returns home to Wales to reconcile with his dad played by Claude Rains. I'm sorry, but in no universe that I know of is Claude Rains physically applicable as the father of Lon Chaney, Jr. No way. No how. Plus Rains has some kind of English accent and son Larry speaks pure American. But what the heck, let's move forward to the good stuff.

Before you can roll your eyes, Larry has spied a pretty girl in the local village. Her name is Gwen and she runs an antique shop. Larry buys a cane with - coincidentally - a silver wolf's head from Gwen, just to strike up a conversation. Later, in the dead of night, he is set upon by a 'wolf' in the woods whereupon he beats off the creature with his new wolf's head cane. Unfortunately, not before he is bitten. Uh-oh.

Soon several people are attacked and killed and of course nobody believes Larry when he confesses to being a wolf man. "It's all in your head." However, the local gypsy woman, played by the always wonderful Maria Ouspenskaya knows all and warns Larry that he is doomed. (Or words to that effect.)

In between there's lots of creepy stuff and wolfian transformations and lurking about in the shadows. Great stuff.

A terrific film and the best of the Wolf man series before the whole thing became a kind of gag.

5) THE LEOPARD MAN (1943) Another Val Lewton creepy-fest, again directed by Jacques Tourneur, this time starring Dennis O'Keefe (I know - huh?) and Margo, the actress with one name. The screenplay is based on a story by Cornell Woolrich, which is kind of interesting in and of itself.

No, Dennis O'Keefe doesn't turn into a leopard. Get that out of your mind right away. It's kind of a deceptive title when you think about it, but maybe they wanted to give their intended audience an immediate mental image.

Anyway, the setting is a town in New Mexico which sports a nightclub which sports an act which features a real live leopard. Dennis O'Keefe is the guy whose brilliant idea this was. Sure enough, the leopard (more a panther) escapes and begins ravaging the countryside. Or does he?

When several people are mauled, the obvious conclusion is that the leopard did it. Well, I mean, stands to reason. But soon enough, it's obvious that the poor cat is getting a bum rap. Well, except for the first attack in which a young girl is killed in one of the most frightening film sequences I've ever seen. So much so, that when I was a kid, I spent years afraid to watch this film again precisely because of this sequence - it scared me to death.  And yet, if you ask, well what did they show, Yvette, that scared you so much?

My answer: Some blood yes, but that's about it. (It's where the blood shows up that impacts.) In the scene we do not see the cat at all. We just hear it as it chases the victim down and...well, I won't spoil it for you guys who may be unfamiliar with it. And probably you won't think all that much of the scene, inured as most of us are by the unchecked blood and guts of later films. I will say this, I've yet to see anything as frightening, made more so by the fact that most of it happens (except for the sound effects) in our imagination.

A so/so film worth finding and watching just for this scene alone. Oh, and also if you like films about a serial killer who gets turned on by a leopard attack. Hey, it takes all kinds.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Friday Forgotten (or Overlooked) Book: Skeleton Crew

This is a book of  Sayer short stories which I've probably read. At one time I know I read pretty much all of Dorothy Sayers' output. And just a few years ago I know I re-read all the short stories in one handy anthology (not this one). So in a vague sort of way, yes I recommend. Hey, listen, any Dorothy Sayers is better than no Dorothy Sayers. All except for STRONG POISON which I have no patience for because I never liked that Harriet Vane - the woman poor Sir Peter fell hook line and sinker for. I mean, really, what she put him through...

Another author (pseudonym for John Dickson Carr) whose work I read once upon a time when I was young and loved puzzles and locked room mysteries and such. But again I ask you not to ask me for details. (Hey, that's what google is for.)  All I can say with any equanimity is that I recommend John Dickson Carr and all his pseudonyms because once upon a time I was a big fan.

Don't know anything about Leslie Ford (though probably I've heard of him or her through John's blog, Pretty Sinister Books. But isn't this a lovely cover? Tried to find out who the artist is, but failed.

I'm a fan of the Lockridge's Mr. and Mrs. North books and have become a recent (well, last couple of years) fan of their Captain Heimrich books based on the one book I read. (Not this one.) Haven't read any others yet, but I certainly plan to. 

As I mentioned, I read all of John Dickson Carr when I was young and impressionable and always planned to read them all again. But somehow I haven't. Still, if you haven't - read them all, I mean - then you must. If you want to call yourself a vintage mystery maven, that is. The main difficulty with Carr (and his output under various pseudonyms) is that his main characters are not especially warm or cuddly or even people you'd want to know - that can be a problem with mystery series. It's not enough. in my view, to be a genius writer of puzzles. Puzzles are okay, but there has to be some likability quotient attached. 

Having said that: CASTLE SKULL is one Carr book I have recently reread and recommend highly. Especially for Halloween.

Don't know anything much about Edgar Wallace except that in times gone by his stuff was very popular and well-regarded. And I do love anything that has 'Crime Club' splashed across the cover.

Rufus King was new to me, a year or so ago, but now I'm a big fan. I've only read maybe three of his books, but plan on getting my hands on more. (Admittedly, I love the name 'Rufus' but that has nothing to do with my affection for his books. I promise.)  I love this cover because it shows two of my favorite things: skeletons and a big old house. I mean, what more could  you ask for?

I know I said I'd read all of Carr and his pseudonyms, but this one is not ringing ANY sort of bell so I will likely try to find a copy to read or re-read as the case may be. I love mysteries on boats. 

I've only ever read a couple of Helen Reilly books and I can't say I was unduly impressed. However, this cover intrigues me and how can I resist murder and a honeymoon combined? Plus, lots of people do like Reilly, so that means that there's probably something wrong with me.

Since this is Friday, don't forget to check in at author Patricia Abbott's blog, Pattinase, to see what other forgotten or overlooked books (and/or their covers), other bloggers are talking about today.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Friday Forgotten Book: THE WAY MEN ACT (1993) by Elinor Lipman

I'm not a big chick-lit fan, but even I can see that Elinor Lipman is not writing fluff. She's too talented for that. Her books are a witty barometric on, I suppose,  the day to day of millennials, pre-millennials and pre-pre millennials ( I forgot what the youngsters were called in the nineties) and how they live. Even if THE WAY MEN ACT was first published in 1993, it is very modern day in outlook or at least, that's how it seems to me looking backwards from an old lady's point of view. Truth to tell, 1993 doesn't really seem all that long ago.

Two of the Lipman books I read over the weekend actually feature characters in their late forties and early fifties, (THE FAMILY MAN and THE LADIES' MAN). But my official re-introduction to the author was THE WAY MEN ACT which features a younger cast of characters. I say 're-introduction' because I have read Lipman before. Years ago I read the well-reviewed THE INN AT LAKE DEVINE and liked it very much. But then I went to another book of hers and became disenchanted, hence my years long avoidance of her work.

But for whatever reason I recently declared myself ready to return to the fold and I'm glad I did. It may be that I am in a different place psychologically or whatnot, but I decided this past week or so to immerse myself in the world according to Elinor Lipman. Of the four books I brought home from the library, DEARLY DEPARTED, was the dud - in fact, I didn't finish it. But three out of four isn't bad at all.

Lipman has such a wry sense of humor and when it comes to modern day social behavior, her observational skills seem right on the money. She doesn't try to make her characters cute and fuzzy or even instantly likable. Her leading lady (ladies) are not faultless or perfect or innocent, they are complex modern women, warts and all. That threw me at first because I am very much of the 'once upon a time' school of boy/girl relationship story telling which generally features an engaging female waiting for a perfect ('perfect' being a relative term) man whom she will 'gentle' and settle down with.
I like that stuff when it's well done and I make no bones about it. (One of many reasons why I continue to read vintage books.) I'm very big on happily ever after. Sue me.

Anyway, in THE WAY MEN ACT, the main character, first and foremost, is the fictional small town of Harrow, Massachusetts. One of those perfectly picturesque New England towns full of eclectic shops catering to townies and tourists. There's a certain established 'look' to these sorts of towns, everyone on the street generally looks a certain way and everyone who lives there knows everyone else's business. But the truth is that these places, while lovely to look at in a picture postcard sort of way, can be intimidating to outsiders. To those that belong though, they can be a haven.

Melinda LeBlanc, at age 30, has (resentfully) come home to Harrow, tale between her legs. She is that rarity among contemporary heroines, a non-college grad with no real career path and no clue what to do next. At the moment she is a floral designer working in a shop owned by her cousin and his wife, a duo who have no sense of humor and no idea that Melinda's talents are the reason for their current success. Elinor Lipman is SO good at creating the sorts of people who are clueless about themselves.

The three main characters in THE WAY MEN ACT have all known each other since high school, though their lives have since then have gone in separate directions. Melinda, the once popular girl, shares a house with her mother, a widow who secretly has her eye on the local fish monger. Melinda's high school 'friend' Libby, a designer of unique (some would say, 'odd') women's fashions has also recently returned to Harrow to open a small boutique and pick-up the thread with a local guy with whom she believes she shared an unrequited passion back in the day. The guy in question is Dennis Vaughn, owner of Brookhoppers', a fly fisherman's paradise of a shop. Dennis was one of the few African American students back in high school and of the three or four major characters in the book, the most successfully content with his lot in life. Dennis' genius for creating fly fishing lures is well known and his shop, best-selling book and local radio gig attract fishermen from far and wide. Fly-fishing seems to be a sort of cult-like thing revered by those who indulge.

Anyway, turns out that Libby believes Dennis once ALMOST made a pass at her but she believes she rebuffed him because of his race. She now believes that she broke Dennis's heart and so has returned to Harrow to try and mend fences and give their budding once upon a time romance a fresh start. Unfortunately, Libby's beliefs are totally wrong. Dennis doesn't remember the so-called pass and/or subsequent rebuff and is hardly suffering from any broken heart.

His eye may be sort-of/kind-of on Melinda with whom he once shared a one night stand - the result of guesting at a wedding in which they both indulged in too much wine and surrendered to the general romantic vibe. At least that's the cowardly excuse Dennis uses (the old 'it's not you it's me' routine) for stepping back from any future entanglement. Naturally enough, Melinda is a bit displeased since she sensed that they might have been on the verge of 'something'.

At any rate, Melinda continues to bemoans her un-wed (at least her un-relationship) state. She, who was once the belle of the ball, is now forced to earn her living designing weddings for girls who once envied her popularity in high school. How the tide has changed. Not that Melinda isn't getting any action, she does have a now and then 'arrangement' with a guy who plays in a wedding band. But that's more a physical thing than anything else. Friends with benefits I guess you'd call it. Though the 'friends' part hardly even enters into it. Not the best side of Melinda's character I'd say. Though I must learn not to be put off by this sort of thing - young women are different these days. Get over it, Yvette.

In truth, Elinor Lipman fashions an amusing tale with wit and intelligence, not to mention a keen understanding of human nature. It's a story in which nothing much happens except that it does. Know what I mean? Though at first Melinda may seem a bit off-putting, you will soon get caught up in her life and the lives of her friends. What happens next happens naturally enough and the bumps in the road seem to occur as they do in life - with little author interference in the outcome. I do like books in which the author is absent and the tale seems to resolve itself organically.

A good read for a calm Autumn evening, maybe while sitting in a comfy chair with your feet up, a glass of wine by your side.

And since this is Friday, you know the routine. Don't forget to check in at author Patricia Abbott's website, Pattinase to see what other forgotten or overlooked books other bloggers are talking about today. (Just learned that Todd Mason will be hosting the links later on today at his blog, 
Sweet Freedom )

Friday, October 14, 2016

Friday Forgotten (or Overlooked) Book: SILENCE OBSERVED (1958) by Michael Innes

SILENCE OBSERVED (1958) is one of the more 'normal' of British writer Michael Innes' Appleby mysteries in that there's not a lot that you have to double-think about. On my first reading, I thought that maybe it was a bit dullsville. But on my second read, I realized that maybe I was the dullard.

This is a terrific whodunit art mystery and of course, we already know (or should know) that the erudite Inspector John Appleby has hidden depths of art expertise alongside his standard depths of esoteric literary knowledge. So no big surprise here when he recognizes all sorts of arcane bits and pieces and tucks them into conversation. If you insist on being off-put by this sort of thing, don't read Innes.

Otherwise you may be in danger of falling under the author's spell, as I was from the beginning and always shall be as those of you who regularly read my blog know. There's just something about a man who speaks as if having a fine brain is an unexceptionable thing. Of course there's always the danger of elitism, but that's not a deal breaker for me if I like the character - there are much worse character flaws. Besides there's very little of that in Sir John Appleby's make-up. (He was just plain John Appleby in the early books.) Wit and a true appreciation of art (especially the old masters) are very sexy character traits - at least to me. Of course it doesn't hurt that the aging Appleby retains his oh-so-dry sense of humor.

A sign stating SILENCE OBSERVED hangs imperially on a wall at the private London club where Appleby and a character named Charles Gribble, a collector of all sorts of things including acknowledged forgeries by well-known forgers (apparently that is 'a thing') not-so-silently get into a soon to be pertinent conversation. Gribble is showing off his latest find to an unenthusiastic Appleby, when he unexpectedly makes a humbling discovery.

I don't know about you, but I love the whole idea of these stuffy private clubs to which so many men retreated in so many books from the golden age of mysteries. Yes, we ladies were excluded, but the truth is I don't think in reality we'd actually want to be members.

The Diogenes Club (Mycroft Holmes' haunt) created by Arthur Conan Doyle was the first time I can remember hearing about such places and though I knew that the doors would always be closed to me, I couldn't help being fascinated from the first moment I learned about these dens of upper class male ritual. But as usual, I digress.

Back to the purpose: As with all of Innes' books one curious thing will very often lead to another even if at first the lead is tenuous and hairsbreadth thin and seems plucked out of thin air. Often it is a result of some heavy duty mental leap frog on Appleby's part and more often than not, the reader is not exactly privy to the step by step. SILENCE OBSERVED is no different.

'Simple persons, of unassuming colloquial speech, will sometimes be heard to remark that one damned thing leads to another. But policemen are only too happy when it does. A distinguishable sequence or concatenation between events is just what they are after.'

Those 'concatenations' will get you every time.

Later on the afternoon of the same event-filled day, Appleby has a conversation with another member of his club, Sir Gabriel Gulliver (Gulliver and Gribble, one can't help thinking that Innes has terrific fun with British names), a 'Director of an august national institution' who is also some sort of connection of Appleby's wife, Judith who, as it happens, is a sculptor.

"As a matter of fact," he said, [Gulliver] "it's about Rembrandt that I want to talk to you about."

Okay. Appleby is used to all sorts of esoteric ploys and gambits. And of course this conversation will also prove pertinent when a second murder occurs.

But it is the first murder most foul later that very same night when Appleby is called away from a small dinner party at his home - a dinner party where one of the guests has failed to show up - and urged to take a hand in the investigation (Appleby does little day to day police work anymore) by the same Sir Gulliver who had earlier been expounding a curious Rembrandt tale.

A reluctant Appleby shows up at the scene of the crime, a dark and dingy shop a few blocks from the British Museum. The murder victim is a collector and dealer of books, art and incunabula. Turns out that the murder is not only connected to information revealed by Sir Gabriel Gulliver, but also to Appleby's conversation much earlier in the day with Charles Gribble.

Appleby arrives at the moment when the body is still in situ and a frazzled police Inspector is trying to make heads or tails.

Appleby turned to Inspector Parker. "Just what is the situation, Parker, and what do we want to know?" 

"Well, sir, Mr. Heffer [young man found at the scene] has some story about an old woman."

Appleby frowned. He plainly thought poorly of this as the beginning of an expository speech.

"Some story, Parker?" I don't think we can have that. It carries an implication of prevarication which isn't at all proper at this stage. I can see that Mr. Heffer is an irritating person - or at least that he is behaving in an irritating manner now. But irritated is just what we musn't get. So let's start again. "

This is the sort of thing that endears Appleby to me.

There aren't that many characters in this tale of murder, kidnapping and high level forgery but somehow, Innes manages to make you not instantly know who the killer or killers are and that to me, is a great magicians trick. There's also not a lot of exposition (except in the preliminary set-up conversations at the club) and things move along briskly to a rather exciting end.

I do have one quibble though (just to prove that even Innes hits a bump in the road now and again) and here it is: later in the tale, Appleby asks his wife to carry out an errand - something which I think should have rightly been done by a member of his staff, thereby involving her in the case and unknowingly putting her in danger. This seems off kilter to me but maybe I'm nit-picking. And besides, I never said that Appleby was a perfect all-knowing human being.

Other than that, this is one of Innes' more down to earth murder plots, totally lacking in phantasmagoria and the flights of fancy (well, except for the young woman who looks like a Botticelli Venus) the author was sometimes inclined to indulge in. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

SILENCE OBSERVED is a thoroughly enjoyable tale which should please art lovers and those inclined to want a little erudition tossed in with their dead bodies.

Since this is Friday, don't forget to check in at author Patti Abbott's blog, Pattinase, to see what other forgotten or overlooked books other bloggers are talking about today.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Friday Forgotten (or Overlooked) Book: PICTURE MISS SEETON (1968) by Heron Carvic

I had vaguely heard about this series over the years, but nothing that hardened itself in memory and besides, I had never seen the books in a bookstore or even, at the library. So imagine my surprise when Miss Seeton suddenly showed up in e-book form over at Amazon and at fairly cheap prices. How could I resist? I like the idea of fumbling old lady detectives if cleverly written AND with a humorous bent. (On this particular cover, you'll note that Miss Seeton doesn't appear particularly old but use your imagination.)

My suspicion is that Miss Seeton is meant to be a satirical swipe at the Miss Marples and Miss Silvers of this world and that’s okay by me. If you have an interesting take on old lady detectives and their Scotland Yard cohorts and you have a wicked sense of humor and some writing skill, then go to it.

Miss Seeton is an art teacher, semi-retired and recently moved to one of those small English villages full of crackpots…er, eccentrics. Her only weapons against the criminal element are her complete lack of street smarts, her obliviousness to what is actually happening and her trusty umbrella which she puts to good use when necessary.  She also has a bit of psychic ability (not overly pronounced) plus good visual memory and drawing ability, enough so that at some point in the series, she becomes a kind of unofficial sketch artist for the Yard. But again, I'm getting ahead of myself.

In this first book in the series, Miss Seeton has just inherited a small cottage out in the country and is looking forward to either selling it or retiring there. The story begins in London on the eve of her move as Miss Seeton wends her way home from the opera (‘Carmen’ by Bizet). Taking a wrong turn, she finds herself in a dark alley witness to a vicious murder she doesn’t recognize as murder until after she swats the killer with her umbrella and causes him to flee. Left behind is the body of a dead 'working' girl.

Since she glimpsed the killer's face and can sketch him, she becomes an invaluable witness for the police who immediately recognize the face in the drawing as a local bad guy. 

Scotland Yard Superintendent Alan Delphic (known as 'the Oracle') and his sidekick, Sgt. Ranger, are both bemused by Miss Seeton’s naivete, not to mention the quick way in which she used her umbrella. But they realize that she will be in some danger until the murderer is caught, something that has not occurred to Miss Seeton.

However, since the killer knows he was seen, he is soon after Miss Seeton, undeterred by her move to the small village of Plummergen (in Kent). A village which will soon become a hub of strange doings much to the speculative delight of its denizens.

It is apparent that the police cannot keep track of Miss Seeton in her various wanderings nor can they, also apparently, seem to keep her safe. The press too is keenly interested in the battling spinster able to rout a murderer with her trusty umbrella. To all this, Miss Seeton displays complete bewilderment - she can't seem to grasp how her backstreet escapade might interest anyone.

However, she keeps stumbling over strange people in the dark and is even kidnapped at one point (with a sack thrown over her head) to the amazement of her neighbors who take malicious delight in inventing various reasons for all the nighttime activity.

Eventually it turns out that someone in Plummergen is connected with a ‘gang’ which specializes in getting people hooked on some insidious new drug. There is also a reckless bunch of young locals intent on mischief and a would-be hero equally intent on keeping his childhood friend from falling deeper into the clutches of the wrong crowd. Not to mention, the local mystery woman who writes children's books and seems not to notice that her daughter is pretty much a juvenile delinquent.

 But is all this connected to the murder in London which Miss Seeton witnessed? Yes and no.

The cops know who the killer is but catching him is another story. In the meantime, said killer keeps trying and failing (through no fault of his own) to get his hands on Miss Seeton.

Which leads to the biggest laugh I’ve had in a very long while: somewhere along the middle of the book there is a nighttime escapade involving a supposed auto accident, the death of a young woman who should have known better, the near drowning of Miss Seeton, the disrobing of a large police constable, several cars zipping back and forth through the village – one of them a police car, lights flashing, one an open sports car in which a titled lady and her son are driving hell bent for leather, first one way then another – one of the cars containing the near naked constable holding what looks like a body – all while several busybody villagers watch the comings and goings and invent the most hilarious stories to account for the night’s events. I laughed so hard I almost fell off my bed.

In addition, the ending will come as no surprise if you've paid any attention to the particular peculiarities of a large closet (wardrobe?) in Miss Seeton's cottage. Very funny and much in keeping with the general understated tone of the book. There's no one in the world who can do understated hilarity like the Brits.

I do recommend Miss Seeton in this season of political wretchedness when a good laugh is balm for the soul. I’ve since ordered the second book in the series, just to see if the first one was, perhaps, a fluke. Stay tuned.

Since this is Friday, don’t forget to check in at author Patricia Abbott's 'forgotten book' meme, this week being hosted by Todd Mason at his blog, Sweet Freedom. You will certainly want to see what other 'forgotten' or 'overlooked' books other bloggers are talking about today.