Another Country House in the Snow

mutilated-mink

This week, it’s James Anderson’s “The Affair of the Mutilated Mink”. Set in the 1930s, just as the talking pictures were taking over from the silent, the Earl of Burford is a recent convert to the cinematograph, and is thrilled (in an understated, aristocratic way) to welcome a film producer and one of his favourite film stars, Rex Ransom, to his country seat at Alderley. The Countess of Burford, Lavinia, is a little less excited, but hopes they will be company for her long-lost cousin Cicely and husband Sebastian, recently returned from the Antipodes. The Burfords’ daughter, Lady Geraldine, has mischievously invited both her suitors down for the weekend, so she can decide which one to marry. But who invited the Italian filmstar, Laura Lorenzo?

This is very much Lord Emsworth territory, Blandings with murders. It was written in 1981, so the language flits through the decades (note to self: when were burglar alarms invented?) but it’s all so cheerfully done it’s hard to bear any ill will. Inspector Wilkins is a basset-hound of a detective, droopy and doleful, a complete contrast to the old Etonian Chief Superintendant Allgood of the Yard. This is an affectionate tribute both to Golden Age crime fiction and to P G Wodehouse, which is a difficult trick to pull off. To be enjoyed with a large sherry and a wind-up gramophone for background music. A perfect weekend read.

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