Review: The Coldstone (1930) by Patricia Wentworth

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This entry is my second contribution to the meme Crimes of the Century hosted at Past Offences. This month the year under review is #1930.

Dean Street Press, 2016. Format: Kindle edition. File size: 1491 KB. Print length: 290 pages. The Coldstone was originally published in 1930. This new edition features an introduction by crime fiction historian Curtis Evans. eISBN: 978 1 911413 20 2. ASIN: B01H7HMBRI. .

30642895Synopsis: When young Anthony Colstone inherits Stonegate from his grandfather’s cousin, he hardly expects to be haunted by death. Why had Sir Jervis wanted him to promise never to move the ancient megalithic stones and why did no one even know how many there were? Surely old Susan Bowyer knows—she is nearly one hundred and she knows everything about the village. And perhaps her great-granddaughter, Susan, knows something, at one moment a shy village maid, the next a sophisticated young woman. Then one night a wall in the queer old library moves and Anthony finds himself on the trail of a mystery exceeding his wildest imagining. Mystery, adventure, and romance combine in Patricia Wentworth’s most sparkling manner.

My take: This novel is part of the project, carried out recently by Dean Street Press, to republish all 33 non-Miss Silver novels by Patricia Wentworth. For further information click here. Most of these novels were hard to find. An ambitious project that I personally applaud and that I would like to see repeated with many other authors. 

But having said that, I must confess that I have had to struggle to finish reading The Coldstone. These kind of novels are not my cup of tea. I don’t  know if this is the general tone of the rest of Wentworth novels without Miss Silver.  A pity since these novels are highly appreciated by Curtis Evans, one of the best historians of the Golden Age of detective novels, that I know. His blog The Passing Tramp  is an endless source of knowledge. In any case, both Curtis Evans and Dean Street Press are doing a commendable job by providing the public of today, easy access to classic mysteries.

I strongly recommend a visit to Curtis Evans 150 Favorite Golden Age British Detective Novels, to anyone who wants to become initiated in this sub-genre.

My rating: D ( I finished it, but it’s not my cup of tea)

See Amazon Customer Review

About the author: Patricia Wentworth was born Dora Amy Elles in India in 1877 (not 1878 as has sometimes been stated). She was first educated privately in India, and later at Blackheath School for Girls. Her first husband was George Dillon, with whom she had her only child, a daughter. She also had two stepsons from her first marriage, one of whom died in the Somme during World War I. Her first novel was published in 1910, but it wasn’t until the 1920’s that she embarked on her long career as a writer of mysteries. Her most famous creation was Miss Maud Silver, who appeared in 32 novels, though there were a further 33 full-length mysteries not featuring Miss Silver-the entire run of these is now reissued by Dean Street Press. Patricia Wentworth died in 1961. She is recognized today as one of the pre-eminent exponents of the classic British golden age mystery novel.

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Dean Street Press publicity page 

Patricia Wentworth webpage at Wikipedia

The Coldstone de Patricia Wentworth

Sinopsis: Cuando el joven Anthony Colstone hereda Stonegate del primo de su abuelo, lo menos que espera es ser perseguido por la muerte. ¿Por qué había querido Sir Jervis que prometiera no remover las antiguas piedras megalíticas y por qué ni siquiera se sabía cuántas había? Seguramente la anciana Susan Bowyer lo sabe, ella tiene casi cien años y sabe todo sobre el pueblo. Y tal vez su bisnieta, Susan, sabe algo, en un momento dado una tímida doncella pueblerina, al momento siguiente una mujer joven y sofisticada. Entonces, una noche una pared en la extraña y antigua biblioteca se mueve y Anthony se encuentra tras la pista de un misterio que excede su más salvaje imaginación. Misterio, aventura e historia de amor se combinan en la forma más brillante de Patricia Wentworth.

Mi opinión:  Esta novela forma parte del proyecto, llevado a cabo recientemente por Dean Street Press,de  volver a publicar las 33 novelas de Patricia Wentworth no protagonizadas por Miss Silver. Para más información haga clic aquí. La mayoría de estas novelas eran difíciles de encontrar. Un ambicioso proyecto que, personalmente, aplaudo y que me gustaría ver repetido con muchos más autores.

Pero dicho esto, debo confesar que he tenido que esforzarme por terminar la lectura de The Coldstone. Esta clase de novelas no es santo de mi devoción.  No sé si es éste el tono general del resto de novelas de Wentworth sin Miss Silver. Una lástima, ya que estas novelas son muy apreciadas por Curtis Evans, uno de los mejores historiadores de la època dorada  de la novela de detectives, que conozco. Su blog The Passing Tramp  es una fuente inagotable de conocimientos. En cualquier caso, tanto Curtis Evans como Dean Street Press están haciendo un trabajo encomiable, proporcionando al público de hoy en día, fácil acceso a los clásicos de misterio.

Recomiendo una visita a las 150 novelas policíacas favorita de la edad de oro británicas de Curtis Evans a cualquier persona que quiera iniciarse en este subgénero.

Mi valoración: D (Lo terminé, pero no es santo de mi devoción).

Sobre la autora: Patricia Wentworth nació Dora Amy Elles en la India en 1877 (no en 1878 como se ha indicado en ocasiones). Se educó inicialmente en forma privada en la India, y más tarde en la Escuela de mujeres Blackheath. Su primer marido fué George Dillon, con el que tuvo a su único hijo, una niña. También tuvo dos hijastros de su primer matrimonio, uno de ellos  murió en el Somme durante la Primera Guerra Mundial. Publicó su primera novela en 1910, pero no fue hasta la década de 1920 cuando se embarcó en su larga carrera como escritora de misterios . Su creación más famosa fue Miss Silver Maud, que protagonizó 32 novelas, aunque escribió otras 33 novelas de misterio en los que no aparece Miss Silver. Todos ellos han sido reeditados ahora por Dean Street Press. Patricia Wentworth murió en 1961. Está reconocida hoy como una de las representantes más eminentes de la época dorada de la clásica novela de misterio británica.

Review: Pietr the Latvian, 1930 (Inspector Maigret #1) by Georges Simenon (Trans: David Bellos)

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This entry is my first contribution to the meme Crimes of the Century hosted at Past Offences. This month the year under review is #1930.

Penguin Classics, 2013. Format: Paperback. First published in serial as Pietr-le-Letton, in Ric et Rac, 1930. This translation first published in 2013 by David Bellos. ISBN: 978 0 141 30271 8. 176 pages.

cover.jpg.rendition.460.707Synopsis: Inevitably Maigret was a hostile presence in the Majestic. He constituted a kind of foreign body that the hotel’s atmosphere could not assimilate. Not that he looked like a cartoon policeman. He didn’t have a moustache and he didn’t wear heavy boots. His clothes were well cut and made of fairly light worsted. He shaved every day and looked after his hands. But his frame was proletarian. He was a big, bony man. His firm muscles filled out his jacket and quickly pulled all his trousers out of shape. He had a way of imposing himself just by standing there. His assertive presence had often irked many of his own colleagues.

My take: Pietr the Latvian, Maigret’s first novel, has also been published in English as The Strange Case of Peter the Lett, The Case of Peter the Lett and Maigret and the Enigmatic Lett.. This novel was the one with which Simenon made the transition from his popular novels, written under pseudonyms, towards those he was aspiring to write. For what it’s known his main publisher at that time, Arthème Fayard, doubting of its public acceptance, published it initially by instalments from the 19 of July to the 11 of October 1930, in his weekly magazine ‘Ric et Rac’, before its publication in book format. Even then Pietr the Latvian was the fifth Maigret book to be published a year later in May 1931.

Detective Chief Inspector Maigret of the Flying Squad has just received a notification from the International Criminal Police Commission, reporting that Pietr the Latvian was seen on a train bound to Paris. This communication is followed by a brief description of the said individual. Maigret awaits the arrival of the train, the Étoile du Nord, at the Gare du Nord. Where a man who fits with the description, gets off the train. At that very moment, a railway employee begins to run desperately. A man has appeared dead in one of the carriages. His body also matches the description received. ‘Maigret strode off without saying a word. He left the station and hailed a cab. Hôtel Majestic!’ 

I can imagine the impact caused by this novel and its main character on the conventional minds of his era. I certainly believe that his novels are unparalleled. Pietr the Latvian may have some aspects which need to be improved. Though, if only for this paragraph, it’s well worth its reading:

It would be an exaggeration to say that in most criminal inquires cordial relations arise between the police and the person they are trying to corner into confession. All the same, they almost always become close to some degree (unless the suspect is just a glowering brute). That must be because for weeks and sometimes months on end the police and the suspect do nothing but think about each other.

Both sides have high stakes in the game. When they sit down to match, they do so in circumstances that are dramatic enough to strip away the veneer of polite indifference that passes for human relations in everyday life.

There have been cases of detectives who’d taken a lot of trouble to put a criminal behind bars growing fond of the culprit, to the extent of visiting him in prison and offering emotional support up to the moment of execution.

Highly recommended. I’m off to read soon the following instalments in the series

My rating: A (I loved it)

Other reviews:.Fast-paced, with a great deal of conversation — and liberal use of ellipses, to rush things along even more — Pietr the Latvian has a rough feel, but nevertheless carries readers along nicely. It’s a good, fun read, nicely (if occasionally breathlessly) paced, and even if it has the tossed-off feel of a book written in a mad rush (as many of Simenon’s books were …), it still impresses with its style and flair. (The Complete Review)

This is a compact novel whose brevity is packed with enough plot and psychological content to enable the reader to see the qualities that will influence so many crime writers to come. I have a copy of the second in the series, THE LATE MONSIEUR GALLET, on my bookshelf and am eager to read it – not least because Penguin appear to have designed the series so that each novel will be interpreted by a different translator. This is just another reason why this series should enable its readers to enjoy the essence of Simenon’s writing and of Maigret himself. Don’t miss out on this chance to read this revitalised classic crime series. A must. ( Euro Crime)

 With all that in mind, it’s worth mentioning that this will not be the only Inspector Maigret novel I shall read. I look forward to reading other translators’ rendering of Simenon’s work and to follow the life and times of one of the twentieth-century’s most beloved fictional detectives. (Mystery File)

Up until now, I’ve associated this kind of ‘Eurocrime’ feel with novels written after the collapse of communism in 1989, such as Henning Mankell’s The Dogs of Riga and Arne Dahl’s more recent Opcop/Europol series, which thematise the rise of organised crime across European borders, and the need for coordinated pan-European policing. But now I can see that these constitute just one phase of the ‘European crime novel’, and a late-ish one at that. Simenon’s Maigret debut was already on the case in 1930, and that means others from that time and beyond are likely to address similar themes. (Mrs. Peabody Investigates)

Often in the Maigret novels a point comes when the Inspector realizes – or, rather, acknowledges – that, however the case ends, “justice” is the least likely outcome. Here he not only suspects that Mortimer-Levingstone and his “aristocratic grandeur” are beyond the reach of the police, but also that his suspicions about Pietr are too intuitive to translate into an arrest. ( a review by Andrew Walser)

Simenon writes in a tight, all tell and no show fashion using a workmanlike prose, keeping the story moving at a fair clip, with little in the way of character development and no derivation from the essentials of the storyline.  Although the book is relatively short at 160 pages, quite a lot happens in its plot, which has enough feints and minor twists to keep the reader engaged, though its general arc is quite linear and telegraphed. And although the story was published in 1930, it does not feel too dated, other than Maigret trying to get warm by always stoking the stove in his room, partially because the story seems a little timeless and placeless.  Overall, an interesting and enjoyable start to the series. (The View from the Blue House)

Penguin Classics publicity page

Penguin Random House publicity page

Georges Simenon Website

Pietr-le-Letton

Maigret of the Month: July, 2004

Tout Simenon

audible

Pietr, el Letón de Georges Simenon

Sinopsis: Inevitablemente Maigret era una presencia hostil en el Majestic. Constituía una especie de cuerpo extraño que el ambiente del hotel no podía asimilar. No es que pareciera un policía de dibujos animados. No tenía un bigote y no llevaba botas pesadas. Sus ropas estaban bien cortadas y hechas de un hilo bastante ligero. Se afeitaba todos los días y cuidaba su manicura. Pero su estructura era proletaria. Era un hombre de huesos grandes. Sus firmes músculos llenaban su chaqueta y rápidamente dejaban sin forma a todos sus pantalones. Tenía una manera de imponerse, simplemente estando allí. Su firme presencia iiritaba a menudo a muchos de sus propios compañeros. (Mi traducción libre)

Mi opinión: Pietr, el letón, la primera novela de Maigret, también se ha publicado en Inglés como El extraño caso de Pedro el Letón, El caso de Pedro el Leton y Maigret y el enigmático Letón. Esta novela fue con la que Simenon hizo la transición de sus novelas populares, escritas con seudónimos, hacia aquellas que aspiraba a escribir. Por lo que se sabe su principal editor en ese momento, Arthème Fayard, dudando de su aceptación por el público, la publicó inicialmente por entregas del 19 de julio al 11 de octubre, de 1930, en su revista semanal “Ric et Rac”, antes de su publicación en forma de libro.  Incluso entonces Pietr. el letón fue el quinto libro de Maigret en ser publicado un año después, en mayo de 1931.

El inspector jefe Maigret de la brigada móvil acaba de recibir una notificación de la Comisión Internacional de la Policía Criminal, informando de que Pietr el letón fue visto en un tren con destino a París. Esta comunicación es seguida por una breve descripción de dicho individuo. Maigret espera la llegada del tren, el Étoile du Nord, en la estación del Norte. Cuando un hombre que encaja con la descripción, se baja del tren. En ese mismo momento, un empleado del ferrocarril comienza a correr desesperadamente. Un hombre ha aparecido muerto en uno de los vagones. Su cuerpo también coincide con la descripción recibida. “Maigret dejó plantado a todo el mundo, salió de la estación y llamó un taxi. —¡Al Majestic!

Puedo imaginar el impacto causado por esta novela y su personaje principal en las mentes convencionales de la época. Ciertamente creo que sus novelas no tienen parangón. Pietr, el letón puede tener algunos aspectos que necesitan ser mejorados. Sin embargo, aunque sólo sea por este párrafo, vale la pena su lectura: :

Sería exagerado decir que en la mayoría de las investigaciones criminales surgen relaciones cordiales entre la policía y la persona a la que están tratando de arrinconar para obtener su confesión. De todos modos, casi siempre se establece alguna estrecha relación en cierto grado (a menos que el sospechoso sea sólo un animal de mirada amenzadora). Eso debe ser porque durante semanas y a veces meses enteros el policía y el sospechoso no hacen más que pensar el uno en el otro.

Ambas partes tienen grandes riesgos en juego. Cuando se sientan para enfrentarse, lo hacen en circunstancias que son lo suficientemente dramáticas como  para quitar el barniz de educada indiferencia que se hace pasar por relaciones humanas en la vida cotidiana.

Se han dado casos de detectives que se habían tomado muchas molestias para poner a un criminal entre rejas que terminan cogiendo cariño al culpable, hasta el extremo de visitarle en la cárcel y ofrecerle su apoyo emocional hasta el momento de la ejecución.

Muy recomendable. Voy a leer pronto las siguientes entregas de la serie

Mi valoración: A (Me encantó)

Acantilado

Even Dogs in the Wild (2015) by Ian Rankin winner of the RBA International Prize for Crime Writing

I’ve just realized that the winner of this year RBA International Prize, Perros Salvajes by Ian Rankin, is Rebus # 20th, originally published  as Even Dogs in the Wild. See my review here. I don’t know really why I didn’t noticed it. I just wonder if any novel not yet translated into Spanish by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, to give an example, will be the winner next year. 

I understand that the competition rules were changed recently to read: quote El carácter inédito, en lengua castellana, de la obra unquote.(The unpublished nature, in the Spanish-Castilian language, of the work).  Bases de la convocatoria 2016 (pdf).

Review: She Who Was No More (1952) by Boileau- Narcejac (Trans: Geoffrey Sainsbury)

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Pushkin Vertigo, 2015. Format: Kindle edition. File size: 546 KB. Print Length: 192 pages. First published in French as Celle qui n’était plus by Éditions Denoël in 1952. Translated by Geoffrey Sainsbury, 2015. ISBN: 978 1 782271 40 6. ASIN: B010KN807Q.

she-who-was-no-moreSynopsis: Every Saturday evening, travelling salesman Ferdinand Ravinel returns to his wife, Mireille, who waits patiently for him at home. But Ferdinand has another lover, Lucienne, an ambitious doctor, and together the adulterers have devised a murderous plan.

Drugging Mireille, the pair drown her in a bathtub, but in the morning, before the “accidental” death can be discovered, the corpse is gone-so begins the unravelling of Ferdinand’s plot, and his sanity…

My take: She Who Was No More, is the first book in the successful collaboration between Pierre Boileau (28 April 1906 – 16 January 1989) and Pierre Ayraud, aka Thomas Narcejac (3 July 1908 – 9 June 1998). It was originally published in English under the title The Woman Who Was Not. And it’s perhaps best known by its screen version, Les Diaboliques (1955) directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot, starring Simone Signoret, Véra Clouzot, Paul Meurisse and Charles Vanel. The story revolves around the murder of Mireille Ravinel at the hands of her husband Ferdinand Ravinel with the complicity of his mistress Lucienne, a physician by profession. Sometime ago,  both husband and wife had signed a life insurance payable also in the event of death by suicide, once elapsed the first two years; what has just happened. But soon after committing the crime, the problems begin. Mireille’s body has disappeared. But Mireille’s ghost isn’t going to leave Ferdinand in peace.

The subject of the book is mainly focussed around the sense of guilt instead of on the murder investigation. As J F Norris rightly states in his review at Pretty Sinister Books: ‘This novel sets the groundwork for future Boileau and Narcejac novels which are always centered on the aftermath of murder and how the criminal is in some ways more of a victim of his crime than the actual corpse.’  Highly recommended. My review of Vertigo is available here.

I look forward to the publication by Pushkin Press of the rest of books by Boileau-Narcejac that, as far as I know, are out of print in English. 

My rating: A (I loved it)

Other reviews: ‘After decades being out of print and nearly all scarce paperback editions in English translation having being bought up by covetous collectors She Who Was No More is once more available in a new paperback edition from Pushkin Vertigo. They have reprinted the original 1954 English translation by Geoffrey Sainsbury (published as The Woman Who Was No More) rather than having a new edition translated. He does a fine job though he lapses into a stilted British idiom a bit too often. Nevertheless, fans of Boileau and Narcejac and those familiar with Les Diaboliques (or The Fiends), as it is known in the movie version, ought to grab a copy soon. Reading the novel is a revelation and an education into the beginnings of a writing team who unlike many lived up to the promise of their first book and proved to surpass this experimental crime novel with a handful of similarly groundbreaking work.’  (Pretty Sinister Books)

‘One of the earliest works Boileau-Narcejac wrote together, parts of the presentation are still pretty raw — but there are many that are done quite well, not least most everything about the clinically prepared Lucienne. Written over half a century ago, there was probably more novelty to the shocking story back then — but even now the final turns hold up, nice, and cold, and sharp.’  (The Complete Review)

‘We’re not meant to like anyone here, and it’s that total lack of sentiment which allows the reader to toss aside sympathy and pity and instead concentrate on the puzzle and the paranoia in this tale of the survival of the most wicked.’  (His Futile Preoccupations …)

‘An excellent book; readers who enjoy more of an existentialist bent will find it delightfully dark, while readers looking for the film’s action may be somewhat disappointed.
Highly, highly recommended — I seriously hope more of the work of Boileau and Nacerjac will be translated some day.’
(the crime segments)

‘And lastly, I have to mention the ending. I love a good twist, and She Who Was No More gave me not one, but two! Well worth sticking around for, and a truly excellent payoff. This was an absolute gem of a book, and I would highly recommend it.’  (The Bookbag)

‘Boileau-Narcejac are masters of their art. If you have ever seen one of those French movies, maybe Le quai des brumes with  Jean Gabin, then you know the feel. There is a certain visual simplicity that is highly atmospherical. A solitary lamppost on an empty street, its yellow halo penetrating the fog. A lonely person in a room smoking and thinking. The pictures are simple but the feelings are complex. Their writing is economical and highly efficient at the same time. I would really like to encourage you to discover these great writers.’  (Beauty is a sleeping cat)

Pushkin Press publicity page

Las diabólicas de Boileau-Narcejac

Sinopsis: Todos los sábados por la tarde, el viajante de comercio Ferdinand Ravinel regresa a su casa en donde le espera pacientemente su esposa, Mireille. Pero Ferdinand tiene una  amante, Lucienne, una médico ambiciosa, y juntos los adúlteros han ideado un plan criminal.

Una vez drogada, la pareja ahoga a Mireille en una bañera, pero por la mañana, antes de que la muerte “accidental” puede descubrirse, el cadáver ha desparecido. De esta manera comienza a desenvolvese la trama de Ferdinand , y su cordura …

Mi opinión: Las diabólicas, es el primer libro de la exitosa colaboración entre Pierre Boileau (28 abril 1906 – 16 enero 1989) y Pierre Ayraud, también conocido como Thomas Narcejac (3 julio 1908 – 9 junio 1998). Fue publicada originalmente en Inglés bajo el título La mujer que no era. Y es quizás más conocida por su versión cinematográfica, Les Diaboliques (1955), dirigida por Henri-Georges Clouzot, protagonizada por Simone Signoret, Véra Clouzot, Paul Meurisse y Charles Vanel. La historia gira en torno al asesinato de Mireille Ravinel a manos de su marido Ferdinand Ravinel con la complicidad de su amante Lucienne, médico de profesión. Hace algún tiempo, el marido y la mujer habían firmado un seguro de vida pagadero también en caso de suicidio,  transcurridos los dos primeros años; lo que acaba de ocurrir ahora. Pero poco después de cometer el crimen, los problemas comienzan. El cuerpo de Mireille ha desaparecido. Pero el fantasma de Mireille no va a dejar en paz a Ferdinand.

El tema del libro se centra principalmente en torno al sentimiento de culpa en lugar de en la investigación del asesinato. Como J F Norris señala acertadamente en su reseña en Pretty Sinister Books: ‘Esta novela establece las bases de la próximas novelas de Boileau y Narcejac que siempre se centran en las consecuencias del asesinato y la forma en la que el criminal es, en cierto modo,  más una víctima de su propio delito que el propio cadáver ‘. Muy recomendable. Mi reseña de Vértigo está disponible aquí.

Espero con interés la publicación por Pushkin Press del resto de los libros de Boileau-Narcejac que, hasta donde yo sé, están agotados en inglés. En español RBA ha publicado más recientemente Vértigo con el título de Sudores fríos (tra.: Marta Pino).

Mi valoración: A (Me encantó)

RBA International Prize for Crime Writing

(Source: Wikipedia)

RBA International Prize for Crime Writing (Spanish: Premio RBA de Novela Negra) is a Spanish sales promotion literary award said to be the world’s most lucrative crime fiction prize at €125,000.  It is funded by Barcelona-based multimedia publishing company RBA.

The award this year goes to (drum roll)

Perros salvajes by Ian Rankin..

I  wonder if  the English title isn’t it, Rather Be the Devil (Inspector Rebus # 21)

Previous winners:

2007 – Francisco González Ledesma, Una novela de barrio

2008 – Andrea Camilleri, La muerte de Amalia Sacerdote

2009 – Philip Kerr, If the Dead Rise Not

2010 – Harlan Coben, Live Wire

2011 – Patricia Cornwell, Red Mist

2012 – Michael Connelly, The Black Box

2013 – Arnaldur Indridason, Skuggasund

2014 – Lee Child, Personal

2015 – Don Winslow, The Cartel