Why Shoot a Butler? by Georgette Heyer
The Classics Circuit is hosting a virtual tour for Georgette Heyer. To read other blog reviews of her books, follow the link to see where she’ll be when.
“Who is Basil and why don’t you like him?”
Lady Matthews looked up at him with her gentle smile. “Don’t you find, Frank, that one never knows why one dislikes a person?”
Mr. Amberley considered this gravely. “I think I usually do know,” he pronounced at length.
“Ah, so masculine,” murmured his aunt helplessly. “I can’t explain.”
These and other questions keep the reader of Heyer’s murder mystery hanging on to the end. The hero, Frank Amberley, seems to know or guess at most of the answers but never gives away a hint of his knowledge to the police. Rather, he keeps them running off on wild goose chases or orders them around to advance his own investigations.
I would classify Why Shoot a Butler? as a very light read. Yes, I intend to read some more of Georgette Heyer’s books, but my expectations will be kept low. The San Francisco Chronicle ranks Heyer “alongside such incomparable whodunnit authors as Christie, Marsh, Tey and Allingham,” but I’m afraid I’d have to disagree with that opinion. Heyer’s grasp of language was limited and somewhat stilted and her characters were flat. They didn’t develop and I didn’t feel like I was ever able to get to know them. The book lacked descriptions of any quality. The plot was interesting but unsurprising, and nowhere near the complexity and quality seen in the books of the writers mentioned above.
On the positive side, the book was clean, light enough for escapist reading, and followed the traditional detective fiction genre (for those of us who love that kind of book!). I don’t know yet if it’s typical of Heyer’s style—apparently she is better known for her romances and historical novels—but I plan to pick up another of them to find out. And I’ll certainly keep her in mind for when I need another murder mystery to lighten up my reading list.