Friday, 9 March 2012

Body Double

Brief reviews of a couple of books I have recently borrowed from the library.


gregory body thamesThe Body in the Thames by Susanna Gregory

Set in London in 1664, this is the latest in the ‘Thomas Chaloner’ series.

Chaloner has been involved in ‘intelligence’ since Cromwell’s time – and at one point lived in Amsterdam, where he married a local girl who died. Back in England he marries again – then the body of his Dutch brother-in-law is found in the river.

Meanwhile, peace negotiations are being carried on in London between the English and a delegation from the Netherlands. Chaloner discovers the dead man has left enigmatic clues to a motivation for his murder. Is it a plot to steal the crown jewels, or is there a conspiracy to ensure that no peace is secured between the two nations?

I enjoyed this book, the plot had some interesting twists, and some of the period detail was fascinating – apart from one line which leapt out and really irritated me. Chaloner decides that something is not ‘state of the art’. I thought that was a modern phrase, referring to technology, and it seemed inappropriate for Restoration England. I checked it out, and in fact the expression was first used in a book in 1910. So it isn’t as new as I had first thought – but was certainly not used 350 years ago.

I thought authors had editors and roof reader who checked that sort of thing out? Nonetheless, it was a good read. 7 out of 10 I think.


du maurier thescapegoat

My second book was completely different- The Scapegoat by Daphne Du Maurier [written in 1957]

I’d not come across this before. I loved Rebecca, and Jamaica Inn – and had also read The House on The strand and The Birds. But this was a new one.

Very clever- all about John, and Englishman in France, who meets his double, Jean a Frenchman and they have a drink together.

Next morning, John wakes up in Jean’s hotel room, and finds that all his own possessions have gone, and he has Jean’s luggage. clothes and papers. Then Jean’s chauffeur arrives to take him home, and assumes he is Le Comte. He goes back to the family home where wife, mother, brother, mistresses, daughter et al believe him to be Jean. What happens next is intriguing – he realises that Jean has escaped from a messy situation, and sent him back to be the scapegoat. You have to read it for yourself and reach your own conclusions.

MATTHEW RHYSI’ve done further research and discovered it was filmed with Alec Guinness back in 1959 – but ITV have commissioned a one-off film from ‘Island Pictures’ starring Matthew Rhys, to be shown later this year. The setting is changed  [1952, England, preparing for the coronation] but the plot is similar

The official synopsis reads: “Set in 1952, as England prepares for the coronation, The Scapegoat tells the story of two very different men, John Standing and Johnny Spence, who have one thing in common - a face. Almost exact replicas of each other they meet by chance in a station bar, each at a crossroads in their life, one setting out on a walking tour after losing his job as a teacher; the other avoiding home after a disastrous business venture”

I would give this one at least 9 out of 10. It was unusual and fascinating. My only reservation is this – how come it appears that  the dog was the only one who recognised him as an impostor. Surely his wife, or one of his two mistresses ought to have spotted something was different!

1 comment:

  1. Modern lingo annoys me when I'm reading historical shouldn't, but it does.
    Jane x


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