Sunday, July 21, 2013

"If You Will Give Balls You Have To Put Up With The Aftermath" Who Killed Charmian Karslake? (1929), by Annie Haynes

"Beastly mess the place seems to be in," grumbled Sit Arthur Penn-Moreton," looking round the room with a disgusted air.

"Well, if you will give balls you have to put up with the aftermath," said Dicky, his younger brother, screwing his monocle in his left eye as he spoke.

--Who Killed Charmian Karslake? (1929)

And at a country house too!
The nerve of the miscreant!
The monocled Dicky's utterance of these supremely fatuous and presumably inadvertently double entendre-ish words, while he is "seated at the table devouring kidneys and bacon with apparent relish," inspired Bill Pronzini to include the above quotation in Gun in Cheek, his survey of bad mystery fiction. It's a classic utterance, indeed.

Yet I didn't find Charmian Karslake a bad book, despite what might be termed the Dickyisms.  In the spirit of Gun in Cheek, I will note some other amusing comments of that order:

"This affair has got to be probed to the very bottom.  That a woman should be murdered in my house and the assassin go unpunished is unthinkable." (apparently it's open season on the men).

"How many people have you staying in the house now, Sir Arthur?"
Sir John looked surprised.  "Only my brother and sister-in-law, Mr. John Larpent and Miss Paula Galbraith. And the usual servants, of course." (oh, yeah, them)

"I tell you, sir, we United States men will not stand it.  This last affair is about the limit and we shall know how to avenge it.  Guess we aren't too proud to fight when it is a question of our women. Guess we shall make your government look alive." (Silas P. Juggs, 100% All-American)

"Just the man we wanted to see. You are a good old thing, Brook. Like Homocea, always on the spot, don't you know.  Now it's just a tot of whiskey and soda that we are after." (yes, it's Dicky again--this actually is not a bad joke, Homocea having been a Victorian-era patent medicine with this motto: "HOMOCEA touches the spot")

So, we have old money gentry; a desperately American American millionaire, canned soup king Silas P. Juggs; murder; a stolen gem with a history of death; lovers divided; a dignified butler, Brooks; and a scheming French maid, Celestine.

Annie Haynes clearly aimed squarely at the country house mystery subgenre with Who Killed Charmian Karslake?  How did she succeed?

More coming in part 2.

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