Ten Little Herrings.
A Graph Review
65 highpoints up to 75
Published by Pan Books 2010
Paperback. 247pp. 978 0330 47213 5 £7.99
I enjoyed the first outing of Ethelred and Elsie enough to be curious of the second title. L.C.Tyler’s style caught me in its fine net and I sort-of cared about the exaggerated reality of these two people. As Tyler, rather Ethelred, says at some point, authors usually take an added interest in their characters lives, albeit those characters can sometimes go their own, misdirected routes. As a reader you can also feel attached and it is good to be able to follow these favourites into a sequel of Herring Seller’s Apprentice.
With nice short chapters, Ethelred and Elsie take it in turn, each in different font, to tell the story. Print is normal size for the small paperback but wider spaced lines make it a super fast and easy read.
Elsie and Ethelred, the prime characters, sometime prime suspects, take it in turn to progress the narrative in their own ways. A useful method of giving the reader information before passing it to their companion, or not, as the story unravels. Ethelred sometimes gives a mini- tour into the arts and facts of murder and crime writing, which is interesting, especially when mixed with a seeming anarchic way of progressing in a case. But here Ethelred is a writer of crime novels, not one of his cool creations. That is the extra interest for me, the mix of L C Tyler with a writer as a lead character and the ‘actual’ insights you can glean from Ethelred’s asides. (see my fingers twitching to emphasise the quotation marks) Add the novelty of a long-term literary agent as co-star and their different perspectives in the relationship and ways of dealing with the misadventures they find themselves in and you have another fine crime novel. Plus a bonus of being elemental comic.
The novel begins where the last finished. Slight time-lapses and half-truth communications follow, with events leading to them meeting in a French hotel, a stamp-fair, two deaths, a small group of suspects and assorted comings and goings involving empty envelopes, chocolates and secret dealings. French police are, of course, usefully involved.
What more would you want in a classic scenario by an author who probably also likes Russian dolls?
Crime can be fun! Dare I say that? However, if you prefer your crime fiction humourless then this may not be your favourite chocolate. The plotting here is exceptional throughout with Agatha Christie-like setting in a Chateau/Hotel and a twisting of characters and plot line. The story gathers momentum nicely with action and suspicion thrown in all directions and with a fine-paced denouement at the end. And a postscript; always good to have one of those.
Titles from this series have twice been nominated for Edgar Allan Poe Awards in the US. Herring in the Library won the Goldsboro Last Laugh Award. Four other titles in this series have been published.
See: Herring Seller’s Apprentice; Graph Review.
L C Tyler is currently vice-chair of the Crime Writer’s Association.