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Kathryn L. Ramage

Autor(a) de The Wizard's Son

5 Works 35 Membros 17 Críticas 2 Favorited

Obras por Kathryn L. Ramage


Conhecimento Comum

Nome canónico
Ramage, Kathryn L.



"When the Great War began in the summer of 1914, I was a boy of eighteen. Like so many boys of my age, I was eager to go and fight. We saw it as a grand opportunity for adventure, as well as a chance to do a fine and noble thing. Dulce et decorum est ... but none of us believed we would be the ones to die for our country. We couldn't possibly imagine how many of our number would die. We couldn't foresee that we would return to --"

Kathryn Ramage's rel="nofollow" target="_top">Death Among the Marshes introduced us to Frederick Babington, gentleman sleuth with a twist. Traumatised by the war (as the beginning of his memoir hints) he had no doubt hoped to find a return to normality -- or at least sanity -- but tragedy still dogged him when deaths among his landed gentry family threw suspicion on all and sundry. In a bid to escape the guilt that had resulted from his 'bungled' attempts to solve mysteries he goes to Abbotshill between Ipswich and Stowmarket to reassure his Aunt Dorothea: she is being pestered by Freddie's cousin Wilfrid and his mother Lydia who dispute she has a right to Abbotshill House.

When Wilfrid quarrels with Freddie too, and it subsequently turns out that he has had altercations with others in the extended family, things look increasingly suspicious when the black sheep of the family then disappears. Has he simply gone away in high dudgeon or has he been done away with? Enquiries by the local police and by Freddie seem to highlight plenty of individuals with possible motives for seeing Wilfrid out of the picture, but until a body turns up no answers can be arrived at. Then a body does turn up, but it isn't Wilfrid's.

As with Ramage's previous Freddie Babington story we are thrown straight in at the deep end. We the readers have two choices: go with the flow or take copious notes. I took the latter route, but wasn't sure that it helped me much. There are detailed descriptions of locations and family kinships, an emerging chronology of events and individual revelations. We'll expect the usual red herrings and misdirections, of course, but like many a good writer of the 'cozy' genre the final denouement will have been clearly signposted if only we had the wit to spot it early on.

But while the author has plotted her story with due care and attention to detail, it's the contexts that make this a lot less of a run-of-the-mill cozy and a lot more than a just competent novella. Placing this case in the early twenties allows Ramage to explore not just the mechanisms of the classic whodunit (as initiated by Agatha Christie with The Mysterious Affair at Styles in 1920) but the ramifications of casting a generation of young men adrift after the horrors of a bloody and near interminable war. How do they come to terms with civilian life when the whole world has been turned on its head? And what about the ever-present fear of foreign infiltrators and spies, echoed in various novels such as John Buchan's The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915) and earlier by Erskine Childers' The Riddle of the Sands (1903) and G K Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday (1908)?

In terms of characterisation there is much to admire here: Freddie is a tortured soul with good intentions, through whose sensitive but driven eyes we mostly see events unfold; Billy his manservant is touchingly anxious about Freddie's recuperation; Wilfrid's mother, the redoubtable Lydia, goes from beastly termagant to almost human for whom we feel some pity; and Inspector Deffords proves to be even more perspicacious than we expected. Ramage has a sensitive ear for the nuances of early 20th-century British speech, only once or twice dispelling the illusion, as when she references 'drapes' instead of 'curtains' and 'rail station' when a British audience would expect 'railway station'; and I should add that 'bi-election' should be 'by-election' (what's known as a special election in the States). None of this of course ruined my enjoyment of a well-crafted tale.

Judging from various vague clues in the text Abbotshill -- with its ruined Hallows Abbey and located on the railway line running north from London Liverpool Street through Ipswich -- is situated ten miles from Ipswich and not far from Stowmarket in Suffolk. Much as I'd like to postulate that it could be based on one model or another -- Creeting St Mary near Needham Market, for example, in an area where there used to be one of a handful of priories -- the exercise is ultimately fruitless.

Postscript After posting this review I found this piece, placed online coincidentally as I was finishing my draft: http://www.klr.wapshottpress.com/2016/06/18/in-search-of-abbotshill/

http://wp.me/s2oNj1-wilfrid… (mais)
ed.pendragon | Jun 28, 2016 |
The detective with a notebook is a commonplace in murder mysteries, and Death Among the Marshes pays homage to this trope, not once but twice – the investigating police detective brings one out, as does Billy Watkins, the manservant of the main protagonist Frederick Babington. Set in the early twenties, this clever novella also gives specific mentions both to the Sherlock Holmes stories and to the first of the Poirot mysteries by Agatha Christie, The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920). Set in the fictional Norfolk pile of Marsh Hall, seat of Viscount Marshbourne, by the village of Marshbanks, Death Among the Marshes is Kathryn Ramage’s way of having fun with the country house mystery genre while also acknowledging that living in the aftermath of the Great War was no less difficult for many returning soldiers than surviving the actual conflict.

As with the detective the reader may well resort to a notebook to make sense of the complicated relationships and possible motives of the actors in this story. The title refers not to the fenland of Norfolk as one might expect but to the extended family of Marshes, one of whom – Bertie – has been murdered. We soon meet an assortment of cousins, fourteen in all, most of whom can be reliably placed on a family tree, and various parents, uncles and aunts. Frederick Babington takes it on himself to discover the circumstances of Bertie’s death in parallel with the police investigation. He of course finds himself compromised: he was a childhood playmate to most of his cousins, and naturally feels loyalty towards the family. As Inspector Deffords says, “the most frustrating part of investigating a murder among a close group of people [is] no one will tell you anything. They’re all concerned with protecting each other.” But because of the war and the years since he last saw them Freddie starts to doubt each individual’s motives, alibis and, worryingly, innocence.

Freddie is also affected by the fact that Bertie has died at the same spot of the river where his own parents drowned, and is troubled by the spectre of history repeating itself. But he has also to allow for slowly changing attitudes with regard to master-servant relationships (contemporaries find his easy social manner with Billy curious), philandering (women’s status had started to change for the better with the social upheaval occasioned by war) and homosexuality (this was barely more than a quarter-century after the Oscar Wilde trials). Kathryn Ramage’s novella is an intelligent work that perfectly captures the manners, language and attitudes of the period while sustaining the usual expectations for a murder mystery. It’s also carefully structured and detailed so that it’s possible to draw up reasonably accurate maps, plans, timetable and family relationships if one has a mind to treat it as more than a casual read. All in all I found this a convincing work, neither a pastiche nor a parody of its models; and in Freddie Babington, with his faithful friend Billy Watkins, we have an amateur sleuth with a tortured history and a decent character who — dare one hope? — deserves further outings.

The only clue that the author isn’t British is the use of “huff” as a verb: this Americanism doesn’t quite convey what the phrase “in a huff” implies but rather suggests audibly giving a heavy sigh or even a metaphorical shrug of the shoulders. She has however avoided the lazy cliché that lesser writers frequently don’t of prefixing upper class interjections with “I say!” for which we must be grateful.

… (mais)
ed.pendragon | 1 outra crítica | Mar 4, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Member Giveaways.
An entertaining, if slow-paced, fantasy novel. The majority of the novel is focused on the protagonist's coming of age, but the action picks up near the end as otherworldly forces come into play. Looking forward to reading the sequel!
1 vote
madamediotte | 10 outras críticas | Dec 14, 2013 |
gmayerson | 1 outra crítica | Jun 29, 2013 |


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