Friday, 18 March 2011

Forgotten Book - Bull's Eye


Over the past few months, I have mentioned Milward Kennedy a number of times in this blog. I find him rather interesting as a Golden Age detective novelist – not in the same league as Anthony Berkeley, I must admit, but equally interested in doing something different with the detective story and adding more than a touch of humour.

My choice for today's Forgotten Book is a Kennedy novel that dates back nearly 80 years and which, I would like to bet, not many of my readers have heard of, let alone read. Bull's Eye is a rather unusual, if somewhat meandering, mystery in the country house tradition which offers quite a few ironic touches worthy of Berkeley.

This was the book that introduced Sir George Bull, who is hired as a private detective by a woman who appears to have rather more money than sense. The matters that Sir George is asked to investigate seem relatively trivial, but no sooner has he joined one of those house parties so common in Golden Age books than a rather shady character dies in mysterious circumstances. Sir George duly decides to investigate.

One of the things that puzzled me when reading this book was the curious way in which Kennedy characterised Sir George. I thought this was a failing, but the final chapter cast a rather different light on Sir George's activities. The humour deployed throughout is not quite strong enough for a modern reader to be bowled over with admiration for Kennedy's wit, but the story is interesting and original enough to me to understand why Kennedy decided to bring Sir George Bull back in a subsequent novel.


10 comments:

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Sir George sounds like an interesting character. I've never heard of Bull's Eye (which I guess isn't surprising!), but it sounds like a book I'd enjoy--I love Golden Age books, country house mysteries, etc. I might skim the parts where there is meandering. :)

I'm hoping that someone will eventually put a collection of these books on Kindle at some point. I think they'd do well there...

BV Lawson said...

In the past, you've noted some failings in Kennedy's work as a whole. Since Kennedy once wrote "For my part I believe that if the detective-novel becomes too stereotyped, if its 'rules' are applied too rigidly, the genre may be destroyed," do you think perhaps Kennedy would have been better served using more of those rules?

Richard R. said...

Why don't people have those great house parties anymore? Or if they don, why don't they invite me? I'd be one of the characters who hang in the background, innocently enjoying the hospitality while other people participated in the strum und drang and got poisoned or whatever. Hey, I'm just here for the food and entertainment. This looks like fun.

vegetableduck said...

I liked the second the better of the two Bulls, partly because of the setting. I agree this one was kind of meandering. But the sleuth conception was a good one, I thought.

Martin Edwards said...

Elizabeth, a great idea - hope someone organises that!

Martin Edwards said...

BV, I think he tried to do what Berkeley was doing, but devoted less time and skill to it. Being innovative is tricky, and Kennedy did some interesting things, but with pretty mixed results, I think.

Martin Edwards said...

Richard, me too. Or maybe I'd carelessly get poisoned by mistake!

Martin Edwards said...

Curt, what is the setting of the follow up?

HowLynnTime said...

I am not much of a mystery reader because most of them are what I feel to be paint by number. Good writers are rarely good puzzle makers. I loved this book. He may not write to the traditional formula - but my thoughts that many mystery novels are as boring as a bodice ripper - is because of the very fact that I think formula writing is lazy. Formulas are guides - maps ....not figure skating.
I thought he was very funny - and would read more of his work if I could find it. have a great day - love your old book reviews beings I haunt used book stores frequently.

vegetableduck said...

Martin, it's a shoddy bungalow real estate development populated by one of the most depressing and seedy group of losers in detective fiction (there's a map too-MK loved his maps!). Cozy, my Aunt Fanny!

I think MK should have stuck with Bull (and a certain Y) as a regular sleuth--he might be better remembered today.