On Reading Well

Today has been a very long sort of day. It began with forgetting to put the tea in the pot before the hot water (we appear at six in the morning to have harboured the delusion that we did not need tea to make tea), and went on to involve narrowly dodging a lorry as we went to work. We have made a mental note that the symbol cane ought to come to work with us; the lorry in question made no noise and was on the side we couldn’t see. We stopped purely because the cyclist (who we also couldn’t hear but could see) stopped. As the rector stressed anxiously at Mass afterwards, the first disaster was correctable, the latter was not.

That rather set the tone for the rest of the day. It ended with a carol concert in which we sang perhaps six carols but which inexplicably lasted 2 ½ hours. We blame the half hour on the interval, which was itself that long. The rest we blame on the conductor, and we like to think we have the manners not to berate the conductor –not our usual one –here. We shan’t bother you about tonight’s concert then.

But we did want to mention a rather good book we’ve stumbled across. In fact, having ended it has perhaps added to the flatness of today. Never mind that, while we were reading it, we quite literally could not put it down, and there are very few books we’ve been able to say that about. In fact, I venture I can count them on one hand beginning with Persuasion, going on to Gaudy Night. We would now add Magic Most Deadly to that list.

It’s a murder mystery, a genre in which we are thoroughly at home, but as the title suggests, with magic thrown in for good measure. We think we put off reading it because we don’t usually go in for fantasy novels, but this is a mystery first and foremost, and before even that it’s about characters. They are characters we loved at once.

We suspect this is because we find much to relate to in Maia, her self-sufficiency, the ease with which she seems to be overlooked, her ability to go on quietly doing what needs doing exactly because it needs doing. We confess, we rather envy her deadly sharp wit, and we would most certainly like to sit down and have a cup of tea with her. Would that we could.

Len, who made up the other half of this detective partnership, won us at once too; he would be at home we feel in Piccadilly, at 110A or perhaps 17 Bottle Street. There are any number of comparisons we could make of Len, and none of them would be quite fair, because he is so completely himself. But he does put us in mind of Campion and Lord Peter, and as far as we’re concerned, there is no better way to be.

As a book it sparkled. We were once told while studying crime fiction that the trick to a successful murder mystery was to try something as yet undone, usually by finding a place where no-one had written of a murder and setting one there. The combination of Golden Age style with magic can only be called a triumph. It swept over us as a warm cup of tea, a nice touch of lightness in an otherwise dreich month, and we are glad. Also, we are now rather eagerly watching for the next instalment. Maia and Len were very much alive to us –we’re not ready to give their company up just yet.


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