Monday, November 12, 2007

Corpse in a Gilded Cage

Did someone say cosy? It's all here: the Stately Manor, the not-quite-functional family, the long-lost relative, the solicitor, the butler (!), murder with a blunt instrument, and the classic denouement with all the suspects (that is, everyone) gathered for the pronouncement of whodoneit.

An offshoot a rich family, the new Earl and Countess of Ellesmere (formerly, Elsie & Perce Spender) arrive at Chetton Hall following the deaths of the two previous Earls. But Elsie and Perce don't like the massive and drafty (draughty) stone pile. They want to go home to Clapham. They instruct their man of affairs to sell the lot and they'll distribute the proceeds among their 3 children.

Mr. Lilywaite, though, is a traditionalist. He tries to persuade the Earl and Countess of their responsibilities: to the family; to Engand; to the law of primogeniture.

While sorting out the affairs of the estate, Perce and Elsie's children arrive to celebrate the Earl's 60th birthday. The children are divided on what is to be done. Phil, the eldest and new Lord Portsea, has three weeks to serve on his sentence, but his harridan wife, Elsie, fighting her corner, sees herself as the next Countess. Trevor, the youngest, is easy, although he does think the house would be a fine setting for his next starring porno role with his girlfriend, Michele. The new Lady Joan and her husband, Digby, are busy calculating what the sale will bring.

Then comes the murder.

Enter the rural, but intelligent, inspector and his, self-effacing, but intelligent, sergeant.

A perfect setting and a perfect vehicle for Robert Barnard's sly humour. Highly recommended.