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Why Shoot a Butler? by Georgette Heyer

March 7, 2010

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.”

Why would a butler with no apparent enemies and a faultless past be found shot through the head? Why does such a negative aura hang over Norton Manor? Why is the disliked valet not fired?

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.

  1. March 7, 2010 14:24

    I read one of her Regency romances and was not all that impressed either. In following the tour, it looks like more of us don’t versus do like her style. Like you, I plan to read more of her works, if only to give her another chance. But I am glad to see that I am not alone in not raving about her work!

  2. March 7, 2010 15:45

    Having only read Heyer’s Regency romance’s (and liked them vey much) I was interested to read your opinion of one of her mysteries. Your review surprises me, since I expected the same quality that she applies to her historical romances. If anything, Heyer does not seem consistant. I have only read 4 of her 26 romances and they were highly recommended by a Heyer enthusiast. One wonders if the mystery novels were not given the effort and enthusiasm of her other genre’s? I hope that you will give her another try. I think her dialogue is funny and very witty.

  3. March 13, 2010 15:48

    Thanks for participating in the Saturday Review at Semicolon.

    If you’re a poetry lover, I’d like to invite you (and your readers) to participate in the poetry survey that I’m doing. I’m looking for your ten favorite classic poems. Read more about it here.

  4. April 5, 2010 09:11

    This sounds like fun but from my one romance novel of Heyer’s I’d have to agree that maybe her style is not uber-sophisticated, just fun. I’d be interested in trying one of her mysteries!


  1. Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, by Jennifer Kloester – A Review « Austenprose

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