It's been a while since I did a reading of something not written by myself, and I'd forgotten the joys and the traumas of late Victorian prose style. My god, the sentences are long. Long enough to get very lost, as a reader.
Anyone familiar with other detective stories of the period (there's an example of some possibly famous detective that leaps to mind... Shermes Hollocks?) will know the kind of story you're getting. This is genre fiction, created to order, but that isn't to say it isn't interesting. It's fascinating.
The Lenton Croft Robberies begins by establishing the character of Martin Hewitt - a nice genial chap, nothing like the brash show off detective we might otherwise know. I won't go into detail yet, not till we're further into his case load - though his genial manner hides a sharp mind and occasional arrogance. The first thing he's said, as related to us, is somewhat insulting - though not intended as an insult.
The case itself is more a character study and a careful walk through of evidence. Sir James Norris, the victim of a series of robberies, is rather a brilliant creation. At first glance he's a caricature, the bluff English gent. But I think there's a real rounding to him - he may be made of stereotypical materials, but the thing about stereotypes is that there are a lot of them about. There's a subtle craft to the character of Sir James Norris - he may be stuffy, a bit misogynist, possible (though I may be stretching here) hints of the homophobic, but it's all totally believable - he lives and breathes as a character. He's just my kind of creation - likable despite the fact you'd disagree about almost every aspect of his personality.
The other characters, brief though their appearances are, are mostly sharply drawn. The various women of the story all have a clear brief as to their character - you immediately understand their various intelligence and wit levels in a few moments.
There are a few tropes that are found in other stories of this type. The possibility of dishonest servants is almost an obsession - it is the default suggestion and fear of a household this size. There's also the question of the honour of the host in relation to the property of his guest. Having your own stuff stolen is fine, having your guests property nabbed is horrific.
It was a comfortable room, but with rather effeminate indications about its contents. Little pieces of draped silk-work hung about the furniture, and Japanese silk fans decorated the mantel-piece. Near the window was a cage containing a gray parrot, and the writing-table was decorated with two vases of flowers.
"Lloyd makes himself pretty comfortable, eh?" Sir James observed.
Do I detect, or am I future struck, code for homosexuality in the effeminate indications of Lloyd's rooms? The fact that he is the guilty party is suggestive. Is this similar to codes such as confirmed bachelor? Answers on a postcard.
The next case will be available to some of my patrons on Wednesday, and later to the rest of the world.
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