A Blunt Instrument Paperback – Mar 1 2010
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About the Author
Georgette Heyer's novels have charmed and delighted millions of readers for decades. English Heritage has awarded Georgette Heyer one of their prestigious Blue Plaques, designating her Wimbledon home as the residence of an important figure in British history. She was born in Wimbledon in August 1902. She wrote her first novel, The Black Moth, at the age of seventeen to amuse her convalescent brother; it was published in 1921 and became an instant success.
Heyerpublished 56 books over the next 53 years, until her death from lung cancer in 1974. Her last book, My Lord John, was published posthumously in 1975. A very private woman, she rarely reached out to the public to discuss her works or personal life. Her work included Regency romances, mysteries and historical fiction. Known as the Queen of Regency romance, Heyer was legendary for her research, historical accuracy and her extraordinary plots and characterizations. She was married to George RonaldRougier, a barrister, and they had one son, Richard.
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I look upon her writings as a microcosm of a time and place that I did not know personally. Since I am an American, my knowledge of life in 1930's Britain is almost nonexistant, but I find it a fascinating era. One thing I have always loved about Heyer is her use of the English language. I have read this book many times in book form and just recently finished the Kindle Edition, which allows me to instantly look up a reference or word definition. Wow! I was amazed at her ability to find the perfect word to fit the circumstances. I have a reasonably good vocabulary and understanding of words, but looking up some of her references really expanded my knowledge. Looking up words such a tout, panegyric, vieux jeu, atavism, "blood and thunder" or ha'p'orth (and many more) really helped me to THINK about what she was writing. Her ability to use an obscure word that perfectly fits the situation has really intrigued me and more than once brought a smile to my face. Some of her historical references to Havelock Ellis or the White Rose League or even the laxative Bile Beans gave me hours of pleasure.
While I read for pleasure (as I suspect most of us do), I'm not interested in just getting through a book like a train running down the track. I like to think I can grow in my knowledge and understanding of the world - even with a light fluffy mystery novel. Heyer writes for the "thinking" reader. She doesn't rely on sex, foul language or brutality to engage her readers, but an exquisite understanding of the English language. And while, as some have stated, they were able to "spot" the villian, that doesn't take away from the humor and deftness with which she handles her subject. I view it the same as I might view a rerun of Seinfeld - I may know the plot, I may guess how the characters will react in a certain sitution, BUT it doesn't affect my appreciation for the humouous way they handle the subject.
So, as you can see - I am a big fan of Georgette Heyer.
I really enjoy light-fiction writers who understand that what they are doing is entertainment, and enter into a tacit complicity with the reader, assuming intelligence on the part of same. To this end, Georgette Heyer creates some fairly realistic characters and scenes, and some rather fanciful ones. Her fanciful characters, however, are frequently acting that role deliberately. As to her realistic characters and scenes, there is in this book a scene between an estranged husband and wife that is so touching and rings so true that one wonders if Heyer had seen or participated in something of the sort.
If you enjoy Blunt Instrument -- even mildly -- put it away for a year (or a decade) and read it again, with full knowledge of who the killer is and how he committed the murders. See if you don't agree with me that Heyer must have been chuckling along from page one to the end. This is my (accidental) second reading of Blunt Instrument, and I laughed aloud continually at Heyer's skill and wicked sense of humor.
The best lines are among Superintendent Hannasyde and Sargent Hemmingway as they plot the crime and its execution with a Biblical quoting local policeman who discovered the body. Other exchanges between characters seemed contrived and uncomfortable.
A good read, but not one of her best, which includes an interesting romance.
Nash Black, author of "Qualifying Laps" and "Sins of the Fathers."