Monday, January 3, 2011

Why Shoot a Butler?

Title: Why Shoot a Butler?

Author: Georgette Heyer

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Copyright Date: 1933

Print Date: April 2009

ISBN: 9781402217951

Pages: 329

Book Description (from back cover):


On a dark night, along a lonely country road, barrister Frank Amberley stops to help a young lady in distress and discovers a sports car with a corpse behind the wheel. The girl protests her innocence, and Amberley belives her — at least until he gets drawn into the mystery and the clues incriminating Shirley Brown begin to add up...

In an English country-house murder mystery with a twist, it's the butler who's the victim, every clue complicates the puzzle, and the bumbling police are well-meaning but completely baffled. Fortunately, in ferreting out a desperate killer, amateur sleuth Amberley is as brilliant as he is arrogant, but this time he's not sure he wants to know the truth...

This is my first vintage mystery for the 2011 challenge and my second ever that I recall (the first being The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler — in audio with an awesome reading by Elliott Gould). Anyway, my impressions are scattered and many. =)

First, this was slow going for me at first. I think it was slightly due to being a British novel and mostly due to being vintage. It takes longer for me to read everything when I'm concentrating on what people are actually saying. Eventually, I got into it and things went much smoother. I think, however, that this would make a lovely audio read as well. If I didn't already own all the vintage mysteries I need for this challenge I might see about checking some out from the library in audio. Or maybe I will anyway.

But I'm getting off track. My feelings on a book often have a strong basis on the characters, and this one is no different. Mr. Frank Amberley is the amateur sleuth of the day, the guy you (the reader) are rooting for, the clever one who picks up on the smallest clues and is able to makes great bounding leaps to the correct conclusion of the mystery. He is also so arrogant and sure of himself that he not only makes the police out to be bumbling (as the blurb on the back of my copy says), but also me, the reader. Of course he has access to clues and information neither I nor the police do, and doles those clues out a bit at a time and with much condescension. It's amazing that I still liked him, but I did. I also liked his family and several others (including the poor bumbling police).

 And as for the story, beyond the slow start I found myself enthralled. In fact, at one point I was skimming ahead (unintentionally), only to realize on the next page or two that I had no clue what was going on and have to backtrack.

Overall, a motivating start to the challenge.


  1. You're off to a great start! I'm so glad you enjoyed the Heyer book. I love her mysteries. She writes pretty good historical romances too--if you're interested.

  2. I recently read this one. I agree with you about Frank -- it's amazing that the reader can still like the guy, given his behavior.

    I don't know if her mysteries are available as audio, but I would love to hear them read. Her romances are and I plan to listen to some this year. :-)

  3. Bev - A good start, yes. I just have to make sure I keep it up. I'll be reading (I think) one or two more of her mysteries for this challenge. Hopefully I enjoy them as well.

    Christina - If they aren't in audio, they aught to be. And I'll have to see about the romances in audio, too.

  4. Wow, I might have to try this one, if Frank is arrogant but still somehow likeable. I always respect authors who can manage to show a character's foibles without alienating the reader from that character.


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