A holiday party takes on a sinister aspect when the colourful assortment of guests discovers there is a killer in their midst. The owner of the substantial estate, that old Scrooge Nathaniel Herriard, is found stabbed in the back. While the delicate matter of inheritance could be the key to this crime, the real conundrum is how any of the suspects could have entered a locked room to commit the foul deed.
For Inspector Hemingway of Scotland Yard, the investigation is complicated by the fact that every guest is hiding something, throwing all of their testimonies into question and casting suspicion far and wide.
This clever and daring crime will mystify listeners, although the answer is in plain sight the whole time.
©1941 Georgette Rougier (P)2014 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd
"The wittiest of detective writers." (The Daily Mail)
"Georgette Heyer is second to none in her ability to make detective stories entertaining." (The Sunday Times)
"Miss Heyer's characters are an abiding delight to me." (Dorothy L Sayers)
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"Disappointing Peformance of a Really Good Book"
For a number of years only two of Georgette Heyer's dozen or so murder mysteries were available on Audible, and those were reissues of weak audiocassette recordings. So I was pleased when the first of these Bolinda productions appeared. But I wasn't keen on the samples of Ulli Birve's narration I listened to, so held off getting any of them.
Enter "Envious Casca," my vote for the best of Heyer's mysteries. "Envious Casca" is an exceptionally clever and well conceived mystery with an unexpected twist, interesting if not particularly lovable characters, and great dialogue full of wry British wit and plenty of humor. And it's set in the midst of a country house "Christmas jollification," so I decided in the spirit of the season to give Ulli a try.
Unfortunately my reservations about the narration turned out to be justified. Although Ms. Birve handles dialogue and character differentiation passably well, she reads narrative prose in a jerky, irritating style--pausing after what seems like every third word and breaking phrases into chunks that decimate the flow of the prose. Worse, she either doesn't recognize the humor in what she's reading or she's simply incapable of anything resembling comic timing or nuance. It's a disservice to what should have been a delightful "old school" mystery.
"Good story, flat performance."
Georgette Heyer created a great mystery with an unexpected twist for its solution. I enjoyed the story line. However, it was spoiled by Ulli Birve's narration which was flat and uninflected. I'm sorry there isn't a negative rating I can give the performance.
"Heyer's Christmas Mystery"
This novel was one of Heyer's "modern" works, set during the 1930's about when it was written. Now it has become a period piece. Being an American, I can't speak to how well Ulli Birve pronounces the English of the 1930's, but I love how she captures the personality of the characters. I enjoyed listening to this novel very much, and hope that Ulli continues with her reading of Heyer's mysteries, she has most of them available on Audible now.
This specific book is set during an "old fashioned English Christmas", a setting that has been used by mystery authors from Agatha Christie to Rhys Bowen. I read it most Decembers, and enjoy it. This year, it is pleasant to let Ulli Birve do the reading for me. While there are Heyer novels I enjoy more, this one is a fun title.
I do wish that Audible and Amazon would make more of Heyer's works "wispersync" capable. It is frustrating to own both the Kindle book and the Audible audiobook of the same work and not be able to use wispersync. Not to mention the nice discount pricing on the audiobooks if you already own a Kindle version.
(It would also be nice to have a discount on the Kindle version if you already own the Audible version!! Hint, hint!!)
"Long time favorite"
I really enjoy a good mystery that doesn't take itself too seriously. The Heyer mysteries do not take themselves seriously. If you are looking for a deeply fulfilling artistic experience this book (none of Heyer's books) is not for you.
Heyer is clever at character development and dialogue. Despite their eccentricities the characters are generally fun and likeable. There is always someone to dislike and wonder why anyone would have him/her to a house party.
This is an "English Country House" mystery. It's a formula. However, given some nice plots and character development it's fun and enjoyable.
I must agree that the narrator was a bit spotty. Some of the voices that she chooses are just grating and her timing is off. However, not as bad as some books, so I'll keep listening. I read these books as a girl (my introduction to adult mysteries along with Agatha Christie) and plan to listen to them all again.
"Who done it?"
Again Ms Heyer has kept me on the edge of my seat and guessing. Great story.
This is a difficult performance to rate, the storyline was excellent and the characters very real, but the narrator destroyed any enjoyment of the book as she did not seem to grasp the humor and the nuances of the narrative. While her characterization was fair, her reading of pros was stilted and monotonous and I found it extremely difficult to stay awake thus having to rewind frequently in order to gather all the clues!! Once again, an excellent book mangled and destroyed by Ullie Birve'
"Engaging Holiday Country House Party Murder Myster"
Maybe. It was engaging enough for a one time. Definitely. But it was plodding and not as sparkling as others by the author. Plus, it's a murder mystery so loses some of its appeal now that I know all the answers.
The mystery was okay although I had nailed the who and why fairly early. I just needed the how.
I found the group interaction and dialogues the best part. They were mostly frightful people and crotchety with each other, but that was part of the amusement.
I think the scene where it looks like Stephen is the prime suspect and about to be arrested on damning evidence until Mathilda the quiet one turns the tables and shows the police that it won't be that simple even while getting in a pretty good dig at her rival.
Not really. I chuckled a few times, but had no strong feelings either way.
This is part of a series featuring the same detective, but it is a loose connection that can be listened to out of order with no difficulty.
The plot was short . The book was long & tedious.
It went on forever. And ever
"Transparently bad plot ultimately sinks this"
The major problem with this book is that the story itself is so poor. It was obvious to me from the first chapter who the villain was, and even though the cast of characters are largely unpleasant and obnoxious my opinion never changed about who the actual murder was. This is very unusual for me, as normally I am clueless till the reveal.
The setting is one of my favorites, an english country house party among the upper crust in the golden age. It should have been fun. There were a couple of delightful characters, both Mildred and Matilda were a lot of fun, and Mildred in particular was funny as well, even read by Ulli Birve.
The reader is difficult to rate. In general, I think she is a very poor choice for reading Heyer. The best thing about Heyer is her humor, and she requires a reader who can bring out every subtle nuance of it, especially in a book that's pretty poor overall like this one. It's unfortunate because she does do opposite sex characters very well, she differentiates between characters well, she has a variety of voices at her disposal (her portrayal of the lovely and bad tempered nit-wit is excellent), and she knows her material so that she never gets lost in her sentences or miscommunicates a line. I'd think she would be great for something like "Wuthering Heights" or "Jane Eyer", but she's just not right for Heyer. She could have made this book a decent light read had she adjusted her interpretations of Stephen and Paula to make Stephen more suave and sardonic, and Paula more extravagantly over-the-top-self-dramatizing such that she was funny instead of annoying, but she passed those chances by and the book just can't stand up to so many bad tempered annoying characters in addition to a weak plot.
So in summary, it's a bad mystery, the characters are almost uniformly annoying (at least as read), and almost all available humor is lost in a poor pairing of reader and author. I don't recommend it.
"Excellent story; poor narration"
I adore almost all Georgette Heyer novels, including this one, but I was disappointed in Ulli Birvé;s narration. She enunciated very clearly, but had no emotion or characterization in her voice. I had trouble telling the characters apart, especially Stephen and ... I can't even remember the other one with a similar voice, and I finished listening yesterday.
"Meet the ultimate in 'Locked Door' murder"
I used to read Georgette Heyer's mysteries when I was a child. So I'd obviously read this one before, but this was like it was the 1st time. The characters were superbly portrayed by the narrator & all were extremely well written! A beautiful novel for a cosy 'fireside' read, with a twist that you really never see coming.
I'm off to purchase the next one. Well worth the investment.
The reader spoke as if she were reading a foreign language - stilted and unconvincing.
The story was predictable.
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