by L C Tyler
It all begins with Elsie and Ethelred enjoying a quiet game of Cluedo. As usual, Elsie is cheating, making up the rules as she goes along, very much as she does in life. By contrast, Ethelred plays by the rules and loses out as a result. Although I don’t think that she believes that rules are made to be broken the are certainly optional and are to be overlooked if they become inconvenient. Elsie Thirkwttle is a literary agent and self-proclaimed chocoholic, a juggernaut of a woman who takes no prisoners when it comes to getting what and where she wants.
Ethelred Tressider is one of Elsie’s long-suffering authors who seems to have little enthusiasm for his chosen profession. He has been fairly successful, publishing novels under several pseudonyms, but he dreams of one day doing something serious under his own name. Elsie is not so sure.
This is the third outing for this unlikely literary pair who have developed an uncanny habit of being in the wrong place at the right time. In this case, the Cluedo theme merges into their real lives following the mysterious death of Ethelred’s former school pal, Sir Robert Muntham at a dinner party at Muntham Hall.
As a crime writer, Ethelred is expected to use his skills to help solve the age-old “locked room” mystery. But, as those who have read the first two books will know, Ethelred’s grasp of simple police procedures and interview techniques are not as honed as one might expect.
The same cannot be said of Elsie who’s natural scepticism and bulldog approach find her unravelling the truth while Ethelred is still blundering around the dark alleyways the lovely Lady Muntham has lead him down.
Not only is “The Herring In The Library” a very funny and enjoyable tale, there is also a nicely plotted murder mystery to follow. I particularly enjoy the way these books switch narrative between Ethelred and Elsie. Their polar opposite observations and opinions make the whole thing so much more enjoyable than seeing things from one point of view. These are very much about the pair, not the individuals.
And as a treat, we also get a glimpse for the first time of one of Ethelred’s recurring characters, Master Thomas, whose latest adventure bears an uncanny resemblance to the predicament he finds himself in at Munford Hall. All in all, another excellent outing for the odd couple of crime fiction.