Monday, July 26, 2021

Summerbooks: Death by knitting needle

We had some friends over last night for drinks and snacks--and mosquitoes. A couple of them were knitters. I couldn't contribute much to that part of the conversation except to say that, in the last two mysteries I read, the murder weapon was a knitting needle...


Patricia Moyes/Night Ferry To Death (1985)

Chief Inspector Henry Tibbett of Scotland Yard and his wife Emmy are able to slip away for a quick vacation to the Netherlands. They see the tulips, visit friends, have a nice dinner out. The last day of their vacation, there's a robbery at one of the major diamond dealers in Amsterdam.

But that's not Henry's concern, right?

Ha. On the ferry back one of the passengers is stabbed in a sleeping cabin with a knitting needle. The body is only discovered as the ship is docking in Harwich. The sleeping cabin requires a special ticket to enter and the purser said no one went in or out all night. So there's a limited number of suspects, though that includes Henry and Emmy.

But where is the knitting needle? And where are the diamonds? (Because of course they're involved.) 

There's a few more bodies along the way before Henry solves this one, and it includes another trip to the Netherlands to meet with the diamond merchant.

Pretty fun. But if I was Emmy Tibbett, I'd be terrified to go on vacation. A bunch of Patricia Moyes' mysteries begin when Henry and Emmy are traveling. 

Ngaio Marsh/Swing, Brother, Swing (1949)

This one starts with an amusing epistolary section to give us the exposition: Félicité has fallen in love with Carlos, an Argentine accordion player in a swing band. Her mother disapproves. Her stepfather, the eccentric Lord Pastern and Baggott is indifferent to the potential marriage; he just wants to sit in with the band. So Félicité's cousin Carlisle is summoned in an attempt to talk some sense into her. Another cousin Edward Manx, plus various swing band members are on the scene as well. Various romance possibilities are in the offing.

Lord P&B's musical debut occurs in a club. They've planned some stage business where our lordship will shoot Carlos in the middle of his hot solo. The gun is supposed to be loaded with blanks...but you know how that goes.

Or maybe you don't, because instead of an actual bullet replacing one of the blanks, the murderer has rigged up a projectile involving a knitting needle. Lord P&B duly kills Carlos, but did he mean to? Or did some other murderer tamper with the gun?

And, as it turned out, Chief Inspector Roderick Alleyn of Scotland Yard and his wife Troy had hoped to slip away for a simple night out at a jazz club...

Alleyn, after the usual banter with Br'er Fox, his assistant, solves this. Of course. Still not sure why the gun was stuffed with a knitting needle rather than just putting a bullet back into it. 

Marsh is knowledgeable about and sympathetic toward performers, and is again here, though her life was more involved with theater than music. But her attitude toward the upper classes sometimes brings out the Marxist in me, and halfway through I was half-hoping one of the aristos had done it. But you can't always get what you want...


One of the last night's knitters asked, so were the murderers women? Now that would be telling...



16 comments:

  1. a Ngaio i haven't read! tx, i'll have to remedy that directly! i think i read that Moyes, but it's hard to be sure; they do run together after sixty years or so...

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    1. Mysteries like this are rereadable because you do forget--I think that may be a good thing--allow me to reread the ones I have.

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  2. What a coincidence! I used to knit. I started binge knitting when I was 16 but haven't done it for years. I kind of miss it.

    I remembering loving Marsh's mysteries. I need to revisit them to see if they still have the same appeal. Great job on your book of summer. I'm .... trying ..... ;-)

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    1. She's not my favorite of that era, but she is pretty good. I came to her pretty late, though; I don't think I read any of hers in my teens.

      I sometimes think I should learn to knit. We've got several knit Christmas ornaments--little Santas and such--made by one of Sunday night's knitters. Very cool.

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    2. Who is your favourite of that era?

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    3. I definitely prefer Agatha Christie to Marsh among the 'Queens of Crime'. I also like Agatha better than Dorothy Sayers. (I should read more Margery Allingham--I've liked the ones I've read.)

      But really I've read the Americans of the era more. I've read all the Rex Stouts at least once & I think all of the Ellery Queens as well. I find them both pretty great for puzzle-ish/cozy mysteries. (Putting Dashiell Hammett, etc., in a different category.)

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  3. A knitting needle as a murder weapon...that's kind of awesome. They should have used that as one of the weapon choices in the game Clue. :D

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    1. Awesome--or worrisome?! It would have been pretty cool in Clue, though.

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  4. No one would suspect a knitting needle.

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    1. I'm sure there are other mysteries I've read with knitting needles as the weapon. (Patricia Wentworth? but I'm not sure.) I think it occurs to mystery writers fairly often...

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  5. Wow, that is quite a coincidence!

    I've been reading some mysteries too, but more contemporary. I've enjoyed Marsh, Sayers, et al though.

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    1. One of the knitters told me there's a Linwood Barclay where the weapon is a knitting needle, but I haven't read that one.

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  6. I think the real lesson here is that inspectors should not ever try to slip away for dinner and dancing with their spouse. It just invites crime.

    Interesting coincidence that you read two mysteries where knitting needles are the weapon of choice. You cite a couple of other examples in the comments but certainly it is not very common!

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    1. Ha! There's that, too.

      For something that seems so innocent, there are more than a few of them. (I'm pretty sure there's one in Patricia Wentworth/Miss Silver mystery). It says something about the authors or about the perceived readers--I'm not sure which... ;-)

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  7. Was it the actual knitter that committed the murder? I wouldn't want to drop my stitches.

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    1. Well...one yes, one no. Hope that doesn't disturb your knitting!

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