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Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Mini Reviews #21

‘Too Clever by Half’ (1939) by G.D.H. and M. Cole. A short story featuring a locked-room puzzle, although we are told the murderer at the outset. In what would become a Columbo-style set-up, we follow the detective as he unravels the clues. The idea is that if the killer hadn’t been so attentive in trying to cover up the crime, he’d probably have gotten away with it; the extra touches were his undoing. If any real murderer made any one of this killer’s five mistakes (e.g. leaving a ‘suicide note’ but neglecting the pen), then ‘clever’ is not the word one would use.

Busman’s Honeymoon (1940) directed by Arthur B. Woods. Competent film adaptation of the novel by Dorothy L. Sayers and the play she co-wrote with Muriel St Clare Byrne, featuring Robert Montgomery as Lord Peter Wimsey and Constance Cummings as Harriet Vane. Yes, Americans! Take it as a period murder mystery, rather than as anything to do with Sayers’ ambitious (and, arguably, unsuccessful) novel, and it’s thoroughly enjoyable.

A Simple Favour (2018) directed by Paul Feig. This movie, based on Darcey Bell’s debut and starring Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively, is absolutely marvellous. I haven’t read the novel, and, candidly, I’m not keen to because it looks like a serious thriller, and the plot is an utterly ridiculous elevation ofGone Girl. However, the film is so splendidly camp – every scene contains one of those cringy stress-release gags that appear once an hour in normal thrillers – that it works brilliantly. Kendrick gives her best ever performance as a single mother-turned-YouTuber and Lively plays her mysterious rich new friend in a way that will make everyone recognise someone they know. The whole thing is very slick and very entertaining.

Bodyguard (BBC, 2018). Honestly, I don’t know why you’re all raving about this, or why you’re all complaining about the last episode. It starts as it means to go on: as a pretty standard BBC political thriller. That is, very gripping, quite preposterous, and mildly jingoistic, like London Spy. The final episode which disappointed so many viewers (seriously, I don’t know why?) is exactly what the first five episodes promised.

Nine Perfect Strangers (2018) by Liane Moriarty. Moriarty’s new novel is a satire that is sometimes witty and sometimes poignant. Set in an unorthodox health resort, it features an engaging and very believable villain, and a nice range of annoying rich protagonists. There is a delightful meta moment in chapter 58, in which a middle-aged romantic novelist trips out on LSD and realizes that she is a character in a poorly written detective story in which no one has yet died. The move towards satire in what used to be called ‘grip-lit’ is very reassuring, although I’ve not yet seen it perfected; Moriarty veers from dark humour to ‘I’m being serious’ moments – and she isn’t alone in that.

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