Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Speedy Death by Gladys Mitchell

First Line: The two young men had been waiting exactly two hours and three minutes.

When Alastair Bing's dinner guests wonder why renowned explorer Everard Mountjoy isn't at the dining table, they begin to search and soon find the explorer's corpse in the tub in a locked upstairs bathroom. Adding to the shock and mystification of all is the fact that the dead man was actually a woman. One of the dinner guests, psychoanalyst Mrs. Beatrice Lestrange Bradley, remains calm and observant while wild theories are flying about. Through screams in the night, further drowning attempts, and poisoning will Mrs. Bradley be able to identify a dangerous killer?

This is one example of having my expectations splintered due to watching the BBC's "Mrs. Bradley Mysteries" before reading this book. In the television series, Mrs. Bradley is portrayed by the elegant Diana Rigg, so I had her appearance firmly fixed in my mind. Gladys Mitchell's Mrs. Bradley could not be more different-- and it took me half the book to get Diana Rigg out of my head!

Gladys Mitchell's Mrs. Bradley is old, small, and the words used to describe her are "bird" (think vulture, not songbird), "reptile," and "dinosaur." She doesn't go out of her way to converse with others, wears tatty clothes, and wears her eccentricity like a badge of honor. The further into the book I got, the more I realized that she relished intimidating and shocking the other guests in the country house-- that is, when they noticed her at all. (The woman is very adept at flying beneath the radar.) The one thing that I didn't particularly care for was the fact that Mitchell seemed to keep all her characters at a distance from the reader. I almost wished Speedy Death had been written in the first person so I could worm my way further into Mrs. Bradley's head.

What absolutely delighted me besides the main character was the originality of the plot. I'm not about to give the ending away, but Mrs. Bradley is far from being the usual amateur sleuth, and she's not afraid of getting her hands dirty. She's definitely the type of character I want to know more about, so I'll be reading more in the series. Reading this first book about Mrs. Bradley put a big smile on my face, but then... I'm not exactly normal either!

Speedy Death by Gladys Mitchell
eISBN: 9781477818718
Thomas and Mercer © 2014
Originally published in 1929
eBook, 266 pages

Amateur Sleuth, #1 Mrs. Bradley mystery
Rating: B+
Source: Purchased from Amazon. 

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