Sunday, May 31, 2009

Why Shoot a Butler? by Georgette Heyer

Why Shoot a Butler?

Why Shoot a Butler?
by Georgette Heyer

Trade Paperback: 329 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks, Inc.
First Released: 1933 (reprinted in 2009)

Source: Review copy from publisher

Back Cover Description:
Every family has secrets, but the Fountains' are turning deadly…

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 believes 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 a mystery novel set around 1933 in Britain. It's also a romance since Frank Amberly, our hero, falls in love with a certain young lady. I will mention, though, that the author likes to make matches that are not exactly destined for peaceful, blissful marriages.

I'd actually label this book a suspense novel rather than a straight mystery. After just a few clues at the beginning, I was able to correctly guess why the murders were happening and who was doing them. The hero quickly figures it out, too, though he doesn't tell anyone. However, his main problem is getting firm evidence to back up his ideas while keeping the next targets alive.

The pacing is excellent, the mystery was interesting, and the tension was kept up throughout the book. However, it's the characters that really shine. They're varied, interesting, and entertaining. Though Frank Amberly can be a bit rude and doesn't always stick to the rules, he is charming, persistent, and clever. I enjoyed every minute I spent reading the book.

I think there are a few British swear words in the book. There is no sex or gore. Overall, I'd rate this as "very good, clean fun."

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Chapter One
The signpost was unhelpful. Some faint characters on one of its blistered arms informed the seeker after knowledge that Lumsden lay to the west, reached, presumably, at the end of a dubious-looking lane. The other arm indicated the directions of Pittingly, a place Mr. Amberley had never heard of. However, if Lumsden lay to the west, Upper Nettlefold ought to be found somewhere in the direction of the obscure Pittingly. Mr. Amberly switched off his spot-lamp, and swung the car round, reflecting savagely that he should have known better than to have trusted to his cousin Felicity's enthusiastic but incomplete directions. If he had had the sense to follow the usual road he would have been at Greythorne by now. As it was, Felicity's 'short way' had already made him late for dinner.

He drove on rather cautiously down a bumpy lane flanked by quickset hedges. Wreaths of autumn mist curled across the road and further exasperated him. He passed a road winding off to the left, but it looked unpromising, and he bore on toward Pittingly.

The lane twisted and turned its way through the Weald. There were apparently no houses on it, nor did Pittingly--a place towards which Mr. Amberly was fast developing an acute dislike--materialise. He glanced at his watch and swore gently.

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