Ten Little Herrings; A Graph Review

Ten Little Herrings. 

A Graph Review
65 highpoints up to 75

herring seller graphBy L C Tyler

Published by Pan Books 2010

Paperback.     247pp.       978 0330 47213 5             £7.99

ten little herrings coverI 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.


Diamond Brothers in…..The Falcon’s Malteser : A Graph Review

The Diamond Brothers in…The Falcon’s Malteser.
A Graph Review: 50 with highpoint 65

Anthony Horowitz, creator of Foyle’s War has a huge backlist of creative writing and I have just read one from 1985, part of a small series. How did I come across this?

Because assorted young grandsons are committed readers of his ……Alex Rider Series…. and I decided to see what they were enjoying so much. (Another popular series of his is: The Power of Five). The local bookshop had quite a number of his children’s books so I picked one that the grandsons had not read, probably because on reading the blurb it appeared to be ‘crime’ rather than fantasy. Yes, even for the ten-year olds we hit the usual genres. Well, sort of, in my day it would have been labelled mystery rather than crime. On thinking about it ‘mystery’ would have covered almost every subject though I remember science fiction as gathering pace in between my staples of Famous Five, Jennings, Biggles, William and of John Pudney titles about holiday adventures in boats…are Pudney books still available I wonder? I know the first four authors keep re-issuing but possibly only for a smaller or nostalgia market now. Not that I have revisited those books of fifty-odd years ago…yet. Now I have to rein myself in as the authors are beginning to crowd in looking for attention, must be like mediums claim when they are having a ‘reading’.
Anthony Horowitz:

The Diamond Brothers in…..The Falcon’s Malteser

Walker books  978 1406341423. £5.99. Paper

Three other titles in the Diamond Brothers Series are listed plus other titles and the two series mentioned above.

This little series follows a young man, Tim and his young brother as they try live together, on their own in Fulham, London, after their parents emigrated to Australia. Current mode of eking a living for Tim is as a private detective mostly by accident and because he failed at anything else. His brother, Nick, a young schoolboy is the vital part of the duo.

It’s a long time since I read a young teenage novel, over 50 years, and this book was first published in 1986 so is no spring chicken itself.

But guess what, this is a book that pays homage to and rips up the old classic Maltese Falcon film with it’s classic stars of Humphrey Bogart, Sydney Greenstreet and Mary Astor.  A welcome role for Lauren Bacall (sadly recently deceased) as key player in that genre if not in the film and its entourage of characters, black and white, that live on so vividly.

If you want reality you may be disappointed but as a fun read that digs into your nostalgic ribs and gives twists to old plots, then this is one to go for. Obviously not an ‘adult’ read but the story itself is happily busy, fast moving and with some good touches of humour fitting into the ‘slapstick’ mould which sit well with the intended reader and with me too.  The whole pleasure of the read is magnified with the nods and steals from the film.  Some readers may find this a distraction but I found it quite fun.  Maybe the younger readers would miss the parallels and tangents with ‘Maltese Falcon’ but I reckon the scrapes of Tim and the quicker thinking Nick make this crime story readable for all.

Danger, diamonds, murder (several, sort of), kidnap, secret-safe and secret-code fill the book.  A white grand piano slips in nicely too.  We even get a highly descriptive, edge-of-the-seat escape and another twist or two at the end to fill the book with plot.  All because of a box of maltesers.

If you like reading a wide variety of crime fiction, or any other I suppose, then this title is a good read.  It does not take long, fun to read with added layers for those with long memories.  The Diamond Brothers are also worth a try if you are a reader of the likes of L.C.Tyler’s “Herring Seller’s Apprentice and others in his series.  I will dip into another, and pass them on to my grandsons.

And remember that a quality author (and screenwriter) is always worth reading, whatever market they are aiming for and Anthony Horowitz is such a one.

The Herring Sellers Apprentice: A Graph Review

herring seller graphThe Herring Sellers Apprentice

by L C Tyler

A Graph Review:   65 start, maintaining 70, highpoint 75

PanMacmillan               paperback        978 023053128 4                   buy now from Amazon

I picked up this book on a recommendation a couple of years ago and have only now read it ( Dec.2013).  I delayed on a treat but can happily report that I have found an author I intend to catch up with.   Time lost, yes, but worth waiting for as this book blends, no, creates an honest, humorous and even sympathetic crime novel with some stylish multilayered aspects.

herring sellercoverjpgSpot the signposts, spot the red herrings even when offered on a plate.  A classic of the genre written by a writer with a cunning wit.   Authors running through my mind as I write are: David Lodge, Leslie Thomas and Andrey Kurkov   (Death and the Penguin).  Why?  For humour and character and space between the storyline that the reader can draw from.  Yes, I know other authors can fill these shoes too but these three just rise to the surface and wave at me this moment.

Intricate plotting carries the day.  Mainly narrated by a writer, Ethelred Tressider, also hiding behind two pseudonyms.  A writer suffering from writers-block, an ex-wife, a body, missing persons, missing money, car journeys, plots and delete buttons.  All with his literary-agent, Elsie Thirkettle, prodding him into an investigation. Not forgetting the police or the near touch of surrealism or approaching farce. Yet hold on for the ride, it never quite goes out of the box.

The characters develop throughout and are supported by well rounded descriptions of home and scene.  Essex, well-recognised from the authors deftly coloured description and Sussex fitting neatly into the crime-scenery too.  Changes of voice work well as the narrator varies the tone and where it darkens.  The book is a satisfying length, fitting the story and writing style (not always easily done).

Already widely and highly reviewed, merited.  Here is to me reading the next books by L C Tyler; my luck being that they are already published!