Crime Fiction Alphabet: T is for Tyler

I know that I first read about L C Tyler on a blog, but I really can’t remember which one. Which is a pity, because I really would like to thank whoever it was that inspired me to order that first book: I loved it, I loved the three that followed, and now I am eagerly awaiting a fifth book.

The Herring Seller’s Apprentice was the book that started it all.

It introduced me to two quite wonderful characters:

Ethelred Tresidder: a middle-aged crime writer, just about scraping a living by writing under three diverse aliases, who is maybe on the brink of a mid-life crisis.

Elsie Thirkettle: Ethelred’s agent, and a formidable woman driven by ambition, curiosity and, most of all, chocolate.

Elsie persuaded Ethelred to investigate his ex wife’s disappearance, hoping that it would provide inspiration for a new novel. But soon she wondered if Ethelred knew more about that disappearance than he had let on ….

A lovely scenario on which a fine mystery is built, told with warmth and wit, and enriched by a wonderful agent-author relationship.

And then there was A Very Persistent Illusion. It was that rare and very special thing, a second novel just as good as the author’s first but completely different.

It is the story of a commitment-phobic young man, whose attempts to escape a girlfriend sets off a chain of events that will force him to look at his past and maybe change his future.

A very difficult story to sum up, quite different from anything else I had ever read, so I’ll just say that intriguing characters, clever plotting and fine writing made it oh so readable, and that I definitely recommend reading.

After that I was intrigued to see what would come next.

It was the return of Ethelred and Elsie in Ten Little Herrings. I loved them just as much as I had the first time, and I loved the story that found them caught up in a modern country house mystery with echoes of the golden age and a touch of the surreal. It really was so clever and so entertaining.

And I was pleased that the cover of the book bore the slogan “An Elsie and Ethelred Mystery.” It definitely suggested that there would be more chances to meet the duo I had grown to love.

And that brings me to a book I haven’t written about before. I read The Herring in the Library when I was having a break from blogging last summer. It was another gem, I always meant to come back to come back to it, and now I am.

The story opens with Elsie and Ethelred playing Cluedo. The postman arrives, bringing Ethelred an invitation to dine with an old school friend he saw recently for the first time in years: Sir Robert Muntham of Muntham Court.

Elsie’s curiosity was piqued, and she persuaded Ethelred to take her as his guest. It was a strange evening, and it ended with the host dead in his locked study.

As the title suggests, this mystery with its roots in the golden age. There’s the aforementioned locked door, there’s a secret passage, there’s a lovely variety of suspects, and there’s a plot that twists and turns beautifully.

But it’s a golden age mystery in a very modern world. Not a pastiche but a modern novel by an author who has taken inspiration from the finest writing of another age, and used that inspiration to create something that is entirely his own.

And there’s more!

Ethelred is writing a new novel: a historical mystery, featuring Chaucer’s sidekick Master Thomas, investigating a crime that has striking similarities with Sir Robert’s death. Maybe it will cast light on that death…

As ever, there’s warmth, wit and wonderful writing to hold everything together.

It all ends in a fabulous denouement, with a such a clever twist.

It’s a while since I read the book, so some of the details have slipped my mind, but I do remember that it was a joy to read and that it more than lived up to expectations that the author’s previous novels had sent sky-high.

And one of the greatest joys was meeting Elsie and Ethelred again.

They will be back again very soon in Herring on the Nile. Let me share the blurb to see if I can entice you :

“In an effort to rejuvenate his flagging career, crime novelist Ethelred Tressider decides to set his new book in Egypt and embarks on a ‘research trip’ with his literary agent, Elsie Thirkettle, in tow. No sooner has their cruise on the Nile begun, however, than an attempt is made on Ethelred’s life. When the boat’s engine explodes and a passenger is found bloodily murdered, suspicion falls on everyone aboard – including a third-rate private eye, two individuals who may or may not be undercover police, and Ethelred himself. As the boat drifts out of control, though, it seems that events are being controlled by a party far more radical than anyone could have guessed.”

Now doesn’t that sound like a journey not to be missed?


The Crime Fiction Alphabet is hosted by Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise.

“Each week, beginning Monday 10 January 2011, you have to write a blog post about crime fiction related to the letter of the week …”

And so next week U is for … ?

19 responses

  1. I love this series too and came across the first Herring book in my local library a couple of years ago. It was on display and looked interesting… I really enjoyed it and had to wait in suspense for the next one. I think my favourite so far is book 2. Thanks for reminding me that I have yet to read ‘Illusion’, otherwise I’m up to date with all the Herrings and really looking forward to the next instalment. I love the cover of the next book and I think it’ll be a corker! Thank you for writing about these wonderful books.
    U is for Nicola Upson?

  2. Illusion is very different, but very good. I’m hoping for more standalones in the future as well and Ethelred and Elsie.

    I pondered Nicola Upson, but I then I noticed a wonderful Victorian mystery beginning with U. Or if I don’t have time for that I have a shorter modern mystery with a bookish theme in my Clearing The Decks pile…

    • Len Tyler does what he does very well.

      I’ve like one and disliked one Nicola Upson, but I’ll give the third the benefit of the doubt one day and I’ll be interested to read your thoughts.

  3. I very much enjoyed the Herring Seller’s Apprentice, which was so witty especially if you know a lot about crime fiction, but I did not enjoy the sequel (Ten Little Herrings). I wonder if The Herring in the Library is a return to form? In general I don’t enjoy “humorous” novels and have not read golden age novels for many years, so perhaps I am not the best judge of these!

    I read the first Nicola Upson “Josephine Tey” novel and thought it quite good but not brilliant. If you don’t mind me posting a link here, my review can be found at Euro Crime:

    • I’ve liked all three Herring books, but I think that first book had an advantage as the first book without the ties of a series. I’m not generally a lover of comic writing, but there are a few authors who are so good at character and plot that it feels right, and Mr Tyler is one of them.

      I felt much the same way as you about the first Nicola Upson but I didn’t like the second. It maybe didn’t help that it was set very close to my home.

  4. Jane – I love the descriptions you give of these characters. This is a series that, I think, deserves more attention; as I mentioned on Bev’s post about Tyler, it’s difficult to blend humour and a good solid mystery. Tyler does it.

  5. I have never heard of these books – and just the cover made me want to read them, then having read your post I want to read them even more!
    They look like such fun and enjoyable, that you forget you are reading a crime book!

    Thanks for the recommendation.

    • Jo, you will love these books. You don’t forget you’re reading a mystery, but everything works together so well and the author really is very clever,

  6. Look like a real treat (if I can distinguish Ethelred from Elsie). And joy! Toronto Public Library has them all.

    • Excellent! You won’t have any difficulty distinguishing the dynamic duo, but I may have confused you by switching the billing, because they are most definitely equals.

  7. Pingback: The Herring Seller’s Apprentice – L.C. Tyler « The Book Jotter

  8. Pingback: Crooked Herring by L C Tyler « Fleur in her World

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  10. Fleur, Please! What are you doing to me?!! I’m not a crime writing aficionado, mainly because my stomach is a little sensitive to dismemberings, but having been skilfully lured to you by a writer I didn’t know – Mary Stewart, and on your recc am delightedly, full of smiles, reading Nine Coaches Waiting – I find I am being skilfully nudged towards a new author. You make this sound so enticing……….I’m going to have to, aren’t I? This sounds as if its written with wit, and i really DO need the occasional lift our of my preferred fare of intense, soulful lit fic which has me sobbing my heart out and wrestling with ethics and the meaning of life! Okay, okay, I’m going to investigate these fishy goings-on!

  11. Pingback: L.C. Tyler – The Herring Seller’s Apprentice | Lady Fancifull

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