Friday, 31 July 1998

Michael Innes: There Came Both Mist and Snow (1940)

Edition: Gollancz, 1972
Review number: 94

There Came Both Mist and Snow is another early Appleby novel, one which reads almost more like a spoof of the crime genre.

The story is narrated by Arthur Ferryman, a literary author who goes to stay with his cousin, Basil Roper, at his mansion Belrive Priory. This was originally in the countryside, but is now surrounded by a manufacturing town; the ruins of the medieval priory are now lit up at night by a huge neon sign advertising Cudbird's Brewery.

As often happens in detective stories, Ferryman arrives at the houseparty to discover that vast numbers of mutually antipathic relatives are to be at the Priory that weekend. The non-family guests are rivals attempting to buy out the Priory - which Roper is selling to finance a polar expedition - including Horace Cudbird, owner of the brewery - and Appleby. It is a little bit strange that he is invited, given his non-interest in the question of whether or not Belrive Priory should be sold.

Investigations into the shooting of Roper that occurs are hampered by the fact that it's not clear whether the shots were meant for him or whether he was mistaken for someone else. In the end, every single person possible is accused in turn, and all are mystified except Appleby. Ferryman expresses great delight at the bemusement of his cousin, a detective writer named Lucy Chigwidden. She enables Innes to make his satirical points about the crime genre very easily; this is though, a relatively subtle satire and would be easy to read missing what he is doing.

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