Thursday, July 26, 2007
Clubbed to Death by Ruth Dudley Edwards; Narrated by Bill Wallis
Medium: Audio CD
Publisher: Chivers Audio Books; Unabridged \edition (November 2002)
Genre: English murder mystery by Dublin born journalist, biographer and almost prize winning mystery writer, Ruth Dudley Edwards. (She has been shortlisted for the John Creasy award for Best First Novel and twice for the Last Laugh award for the year's funniest crime novel.)
Bill Wallis, the narrator who has done a compelling job of bringing Edward's Robert Amiss books to life, is a British actor and comedian who has appeared in a number of long running British comedy shows.
Synopsis: In the United States the term Gentleman's Club has come to mean a strip bar with suspect substances on the floor, weak drinks and a huge sign that can be seen from the nearest interstate. In Ruth Dudley Edwards satirical mystery Clubbed to Death it means something quite different. In the select world of "Clubland" dignified front doors open to elegant foyers, sumptuous dining rooms and hushed libraries redolent with the whiff of cigars and brandy, one particular club stood out for its interesting ethos-- a club endowed by it wealthy founder in the spirit of John Wilmot, the Earl of Rochester. Wilmot, a noted intimate of King Charles II, libertine and poet, died at the age of 32 of "dissipation", i.e., the effects of alcoholism and syphilis.
But all is not well at the ffeatherstonehaugh (pronounced Fanshaw) club. The members in residence are all elderly and eccentric. The servants are treated vilely. And just recently the last Secretary who had been brought in to reform the finances of the club had fallen to his death from the gallery in what might have been an accident, a suicidal leap or a premeditated murder.
Unsatisfied with the coroner's verdict of death by accident, another member of the club had urged Detective Superintendent Jim Milton and Sergeant Ellis Pooley of Scotland Yard to investigate the matter further. Sergeant Pooley's idea was to send the currently unemployed and love lorn Robert Amiss into the mouth of the lion disguised as a waiter. Amiss, whose last job as a civil servant had not prepared him for the cramped quarters, inadequate and badly prepared food and general abuse, that resulted in the ffeatherstonehaugh having an absurdly high turnover of employees.
Despite the fact that the subject is murder, Dudley manages to wring quite a bit of hilarity out of Amiss' experiences. While their behavior is over the top, the elderly suspects are granted some dignity.
Fans of Ida "Jack" Troutbeck will no doubt be disappointed to find that she does not appear in this mystery, but there's still a lot of fun to be had.
As for Bill Wallis' narration-- he manages to give each character it's own voice and accent. The listener would very rarely have problems with distinguishing the characters, even in the longer passages without speaker tags.
This is a very happy combination of talented narrator and author that I plan to put on my keeper shelf for future enjoyment.