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 … ?