I sometimes feel as though I ought to give new authors a chance, and not just stick to my old favorites. In this case, I was swayed by the back-cover quote: "pitch-perfect classic whodunit."
I should have remembered the rules.
A Death by Any Other Name is just plain badly written. It's not entirely Tessa Arlen's fault; there are a lot of problems that would have been caught by any competent copy editor. Consider:
- "Fraulein" is several times misspelled as "Frauline."
- A chafing dish is used to warm food. A chaffing dish, if there were such a thing, would have to either convert food to inedible husks, mock it in a good-natured fashion, or confuse its radar.
- One character--an educated man--says that France has been England's foe "since time in memoriam". The phrase Arlen is looking for is "since time immemorial."
- Only other servants would have referred to the butler as "Mr. Evans." The family and guests would have called him "Evans."
She brought refinement to the dishes she prepared that far outshone anything I have had from French chefs in more prestigious establishments.Try saying that out loud and sounding natural. There are plenty of other solecisms as well--run-on sentences, misused commas, paragraphs that have unattributed dialog from two different characters, and an implacable devotion to telling what the characters are feeling rather than showing. Nor does Arlen understand that the "action" of a whodunit takes the form of "information is revealed" (either to obscure or to enlighten), so the pacing is nonexistent too.
At this point,
- This piece of paper, which we found quite by accident, has a 7 written in the continental fashion, with a bar through it:
- X is French.
- Therefore, X is the murderer!
I'm not happy to have to pan this book. It's the kind of thing I'd like to like, and the publisher is one I'd like to support. But the author didn't do her job, and the editor didn't do theirs.
My usual suspects for whodunits are Steve Hockensmith, Aaron and Charlotte Elkins, and sometimes Anthony Horowitz. If you find any others, let me know.