Thursday, April 3, 2014

Forgotten Book: Murder at the Pageant by Victor L. Whitechurch

Being a member of the clergy and a writer of mysteries might seem two very different callings but Victor Lorenzo Whitechurch (1868-1933) was both: attached to the Church of England as well as a prolific writer and member of the Detection Club. He is best known today for his stories featuring the Railway Detective Thorpe Hazell. (A review of it can be read @ Pretty Sinister Books). But he also wrote a number of other books including Murder at the Pageant.



Frimley Manor is in a state of excitement. It is an evening in the year 1929 and a pageant is being held in its grounds in order to collect funds for a hospital. In 1705, Queen Anne had visited the manor and had been carried over in a sedan chair. Now two hundred and twenty four years later, the same scene is being enacted with the highlight being the same sedan chair that had been used to carry Her Royal Highness:

It was a very handsome old chair, lacquered in black and dark red and overlaid with brass filigree-work. The poles, also, were similarly ornamented. One of the bearers lifted the roof, which was hinged, slightly, and tilted it back, while another opened the side door. Queen Anne rose from her seat, stepped out, and graciously accepted the hand of her host. They led the way, followed by their respective retainers, to the entrance of the house, into which they disappeared. 



The scene is well-received though there is a slight feeling that Mrs. Cresswell, who is playing the role of Queen Anne, should not be flaunting her pearls so:

 "Don't you think Mrs. Cresswell is a silly ass to sport those pearls of hers all over the place?"

"Why?"

"Well, they are frightfully valuable, you know. I think she's simply asking for trouble."

"Oh, you mean it's a temptation?"

"Well, you don't know who there might have been among the crowd we had in here today. I know one thing, and that is that her husband would be perfectly hectic about it if he knew she'd been wearing that necklace. He's most awfully particular about it—family heirloom, and all that sort of thing. They say he only lets her put the thing on when he's present, or at shows where detectives are engaged."

"Well, he isn't here today, anyway. And the thing's all over now. If any motor bandits were about they'd have had the bally pearls by this time."

However, before the night is over the pearls go missing, a murder occurs, and the chair assumes a sinister significance. Now, it is up to the police (who are thankfully, shown as pretty competent) and ex-secret service agent Roger Bistrow, who is one of the guests at the manor as well as Master of the Pageant, to solve this double mystery.

This is an easy read which well captures the English countryside.

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First Line: "The sedan-chair used in this scene is the chair in which Queen Anne was carried on the occasion of her visit to Frimley Manor in 1705."

Title: Murder at the Pageant
Author: Victor L. Whitechurch
Publication Details: London: Collins, 1930 (The Crime Club)
First Published: 1930
Pages: n.pag.
Other books read of the same author: None


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Entry for FFB @ Pattinase

14 comments:

  1. Thanks Neeru - never actually come across this book sounds like great fun and I am always fascinated by how many writers can be prolific while only publishing in their spare time!

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    1. True Sergio. When I saw the lonnnng list of his published works at wikipedia, I was flummoxed. And here one doesn't even get time to post regularly.

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  2. Neeru - Thanks for this. Haven't read Whitechurch's work, but this one sounds like an enjoyable read. Glad you shared it.

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    1. This is an enjoyable read - pretty predictable yet charming in its own way.

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  3. I have a copy of this but have yet to get to it. From what I've read in reference books and blogs this is Whitechurch's best detective novel. So glad someone else is reading Whitechurch. He was one of the original members of he Detection Club and he when he put his mind to it he had the goods on display. OH! and thanks for the link to my post.

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    1. John, I had no idea that he was one of the original members of the Detection club. This one is pretty predictable but the one that you reviewed does seem to have more twists. And it was a pleasure providing a link to it.

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  4. Neer, this vintage novel sounds interesting. I might read it for the pleasure of reading.

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    1. Prashant, you can download it for free from Project Gutenberg, Australia. Looking forward to your views on it.

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  5. Neer, you have introduced me to another vintage mystery author. I missed John's post about the railway stories. Both sound interesting.

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    1. Thanks Tracy. I look forward to reading that book about the Railway stories. It too is available for free download from Gutenberg Australia.

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  6. I love this sort of thing, Neer. I'll see about downloading it - if I can here. I love Project Gutenberg. It does amazing work.

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    1. Yes, Yvette. I love all those sites which provide free download: Gutenberg, Manybooks, Open Library. Much of my time is spent browsing through their titles.:)

      I hope you enjoy the book.

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  7. Neer, I read this years ago and just recently found a copy for my very own. I'm going to have to reread!

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    1. I enjoyed the book Bev but don't think will ever re-read it. :)

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