Things I’ve Learned from Old-School British Mysteries

It’s likely to be a minute before my next textile post; I want to cover three projects in the next sewing one, and I am not quite there with any of my knitting projects (pictured above).

But while I am working on them, I am usually plugged into an audiobook–very often a British mystery, either from the Golden Age or something more current.  Though many people may think that such books are mere escapism,  they really contain a lot of valuable information.  When I got to thinking about all I’ve learned, I decided that I had to share it with the world.  So here goes.

1. As has often been remarked, the murder rate in picturesque English villages is several times that of Chicago in the 1930’s. I visited several a year ago, and was terribly disappointed to see nothing suspicious.  It must have been a slow day.

2. People only put up with the expense and inconvenience of owning a country house so that they can throw weekend parties and invite all of their friends, most of whom happen to be homicidal. Throwing a house party, or allowing relatives to live with you, is also a fairly reliable way to commit suicide.

3. If you are afraid somebody might want to kill you, whatever you do, don’t lock yourself in your bedroom. It won’t save you.

4. It’s never the Ingenue, the Suspicious Foreigner, the Butler or one half of the Young Couple in Love. Eton and other elite schools produce so many murderers that they must offer special tutorials.

5. Members of the gentry are apt to be homicidal, and they can only be caught by detectives who belong to the same social caste. Working-class detectives, while useful for pumping the help, would never be able to penetrate the walls of class snottiness with which murderers habitually surround themselves.

6. If a mysterious man who has traveled a lot proposes to anyone, he will turn out to have a wife in a madhouse in Australia. (Corollary: A surprising number of Australian women become inexplicably deranged within weeks of marrying Englishmen.) Australia is also populated mostly by missing heirs, cousins who were thought to be dead, and people nobody knew existed. See also “South America.”

7. Be careful about going to church fetes. Who knows what is going on in and among all those tents and marquees?

8. If you don’t happen to have a dog, you have probably walked right past dozens of dead bodies while taking your morning constitutionals.

9. In the UK, guns don’t kill people. Booby-trapped pianos, Rube Goldberg devices, church bells, snakes on bell-pulls, hanging plants, nicotine injected into toothpaste, bizarre re-enactments of nursery rhymes, membership in tontines, Punch puppets, giant hounds with painted teeth, convenient collections of bizarre weapons from all over the world, slingshots, kites, skewers in elevators, wires set to trip your horse, falling objects (including, but not limited to, urns, busts and statues of the Buddha), omelets, and the claymore used in the last scene of Macbeth kill people. This list is by no means inclusive. Obviously, stricter gun laws (and all those Etonian tutorials) have forced British murderers to become much more creative than their clumsy American counterparts.

And if those aren’t True Facts, I’d like to know what are.

With that, I am going back to my knitting, and to Christopher Fowler’s Bryant and May.

6 comments on “Things I’ve Learned from Old-School British Mysteries

    • I have been binge-watching Midsomer Murders whenever Himself goes fishing, and I adore Morse, both in print and in his various screen incarnations. I like Christie better on the screen than in books, but I think I would like Inspector Lynley better if his creator didn’t drool over him quite so much. And there are so many sleuths that I wish they would put on TV.


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