24 January 2016

review: THE CRIME AND THE CRYSTAL, Elizabeth Ferrars

  • first published 1985
  • this edition published in 1986 by Ulverscroft in large print edition
  • #3 in the Andrew Basnett series
  • ISBN 0-7089-1485-3
  • 303 pages (large print)
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Christmas in Adelaide promises to be a pleasant vacation for Andrew Basnett, retired professor of botany and amateur sleuth. But the shadow of an unsolved murder hangs over the lives of his hosts, Tony and Jan Gardiner. The police still suspect Jan of her first husband's murder - and then a second killing takes place under the same bizarre circumstances. What can a guest do in such a case but try to clear the name of his hostess and solve the crime?

My Take

I'm not sure what actually led me to select this novel from my local library but it came as a pleasant surprise to find that it was set in my home city of Adelaide.

Andrew Basnett comes to Adelaide to spend Christmas with his former student Tony Gardiner. Tony has recently married and he and his wife Jan live in the fictitious seaside suburb of Betty Hills, which I decided was probably either Brighton or Hove. Twelve months earlier Jan's first husband had been murdered at a local quarry and she and Tony had married within a few months. Jan's sister Kay has also recently married and she and her husband live nearby, a little closer to the beach.

At first I suspected that the author had got most of the details for her setting from travel brochures but then discovered she had actually lived in Adelaide for a short time (see about the author below). I'm not sure why the suburb was named Betty Hills, possibly because it is a combo of the features of more than one of the southern suburbs. Basnett takes a ride on the Glenelg Tram, visits Botanic Park, and refers to The City of Churches.

Basnett thinks things are pretty strained between Tony and his new wife, a little more than is usual in the case of relative newly weds. On Christmas Day a second murder takes place and Jan disappears. Similarities between this murder and the earlier one make it likely that the murderer is the same person.

There is nothing really remarkable about this novel, plenty of allusions to Adelaide's tourist attractions, filling in the setting of a comfortable cozy. It does make me curious about what the other settings of the Basnett series were like:
Andrew Basnett
Something Wicked (1983)
Root of All Evil (1984)
The Crime and the Crystal (1985)
The Other Devil's Name (1986)
A Murder Too Many (1988)
Smoke Without Fire (1990)
A Hobby of Murder (1994)
A Choice of Evils (1995)
They were all published in the last 12 years of Ferrars' life.

My rating: 4.2

I've also read

About the author 1907-1995 (Wikipedia)
Her extraordinary output owes a great deal to considerable self-discipline and diligent method. Her plots were worked out in detail in hand-written notebooks before being filled out in typed manuscript; she said that they were worked backwards from the denouement. Like every writer, she based characters and situations on people she knew and things she had seen in real life. She travelled with her husband when his academic career required, for example to Adelaide where he was a visiting professor at the University of South Australia.


Margot Kinberg said...

This does sound like an enjoyable read, Kerrie. Interestingly, Basnett starts out, I believe, in the UK, house-sitting for a nephew. Apparently he travels..

Clothes In Books said...

I like Ferrars books, they are always competent, if not usually wildly exciting. Very classic detective stories of a certain kind, quite soothing, and there are loads of them! I will look out for this one, I like the idea of the Australian setting.

vicki (skiourophile) said...

It was sort of weird, that familiar yet not quite familiar Adelaide setting. I wondered too, if she'd ever been here.

Kerrie said...

I came to the conclusion that she had been to Cleland and patted kangaroos, and on the Glenelg tram, and had a picnic in Botanic Park. I just thought the name Betty Hill was a bit strange.

Anne H said...

I read one of these once (nowhere near her best in my opinion) and found the name of Betty Hill or Bettyhill very odd indeed. As it is actually Scottish, it seems to be her name for Glenelg, another Scots-derived name.


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