July 12

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Elsie and Ethelred (Series)

The Ethelred Tressider and Elsie Thirkettle series, by L. C. Tyler

We first meet Ethelred Tressider and Elsie Thirkettle in “The Herring Seller’s Apprentice”. Ethelred is a second rate (third rate?) crime writer and Elsie is his literary agent. Ethelred is mild-mannered, easily taken in by a credible story, and apparently putty in the hands of an attractive woman. Elsie is acerbic, sarcastic, occasionally downright rude, and addicted to chocolate. In the first book of the series, Ethelred’s ex-wife disappears, and turns up murdered (or does she?), and Ethelred and Elsie investigate. Their versions of events alternate in the book, and reveal two very different viewpoints, often conflicting, of events.

This is a delightful comic parody of the classic crime novel, with liberal servings of metafiction adding to the fun. And what is metafiction, I hear you ask. Here’s an example. It’s the first chapter that Elsie narrates, and is denoted in the book by a different typeface. The chapter begins with Elsie saying: “If there’s one thing that gets up my sodding nose, it’s starting a new chapter and finding that the poxy narrator has changed. Changing the typeface just adds insult to injury, as if the author (silly tosser) reckons the reader won’t recognise it’s somebody else without underlining everything and putting it in twenty-four point sodding Haettenschweiller. Or Whatever.”

As the series progresses, Ethelred and Elsie work together in their own special dysfunctional way to investigate more murders. Ethelred is embroiled with a succession of unsuitable women, each of whom Elsie thoroughly disparages. The laughs keep coming, the chocolate is consumed in copious amounts, the mysteries are well plotted, and the red herrings proliferate. I recommend reading the books in order: The Herring Seller’s Apprentice, Ten Little Herrings, The Herring in the Library, Herring on the Nile, Crooked Herring, and Cat Among the Herrings. Enjoy.

(Posted by Bev)