Tuesday, September 14, 2010


THIS is my oldest guilty pleasure, and I've reread the three of these in the past few days.
These books were written in the 1950s. They are DATED. The heroines all fall in love with their counterparts, sometimes after some fuss, but in a matter of pages. Why do I love these books? Not sure ... I think when I was about 14, I read all of them, and the way you read books when you're 14 ... they stay with you. So it's familiar ground. "The Moon Spinners" was made into a Disney movie with Hayley Mills about twenty years before I saw her in DIAL M FOR MURDER in London, which is about twenty *more* years ago now. I think the movie was in black and white. (!)
So why do I read these when I'm in the mood for mental M & Ms? They're literary. They use the old device of a quotation from classic literature at the top of chapters. The descriptions and language verge on poetic. They're murder mysteries--what we'd now call "cozies"--with the suspense drawn out on a long, long cord, in Greece. Or France. Or Italy. I dragged my husband to Greece back in 1992 because I was dying to see Mary Stewart's Greece ... in the way that plenty of people go to Prince Edward Island to see Anne of Green Gables's PEI. And she shows an unflinching willingness to lay bare weaknesses (compassionately) in well-drawn characters. I won't recommend them ... they're so unfashionable, though they were all months on the best-seller list in their day.
But here, I'll give you some of the opening to NINE COACHES WAITING (the title is taken from Tourneur's Revenger's Tragedy). The heroine has just arrived in Paris:
"Some of the baggage was out on the tarmac. I could see my own shabby case wedged between a brand-new Revrobe and something huge and extravagant in cream-colored hide. Mine had been a good case once, good solid leather stamped deeply with Daddy's initials, now half hidden under the new label smeared by London's rain. Miss L. Martin, Paris. Symbolic, I thought, with an amusement that twisted a bit awry somewhere inside me. Miss L. Martin, Paris, trudging along between a stout man in impeccable city clothes and a beautiful American girl with a blond mink coat slung carelessly over a suit that announced discreetly that she had been to Paris before, and recently. I myself must have just that drab, seen-better-days shabbiness that Daddy's old case had, perched up there among the sleek cabin-class luggage. But I was here, home after ten years."

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