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The Murder of My Aunt

Page history last edited by Jon 12 years, 7 months ago

Hull, Richard - The Murder of My Aunt


An inverted mystery, an 'intellectual shocker' in which a young man plots a perfect murder for his aunt. This book is one of the Haycraft-Queen cornerstones and Haycraft called it 'a classic of its kind, an intellectual shocker par excellence'.

I just finished reading Murder of my Aunt by Richard Hull last night and it was an incredible read. I haven't been this excited about a new author (for me) since I read The Red Right Hand by Joel Townsley Rogers. It's a shame he only wrote 15 books. MOMA was his first.


The book is written in the first person, and from page one we are presented with a totally charmless hero, Edward Powell. I could not put the book down. It is almost viciously funny, but with its own brand of originality. It has a wonderful ending that comes completely out of left field. But what is probably even better is that almost everything about it is believable, particularly the characters. There is no patronizing toward the servants or the country folk, except by the the hero, and he is completely fascinating.


Edward is a man with every advantage in life, but he is also fat, lazy, pimply, opinionated, his hair is long and he is effeminately fastidious concerning his clothes. (Not my description, but that of his Aunt) He hates the Welsh countryside where the story is set, is snobbish towards everyone he considers beneath him (which includes the entire countryside of Brynmawr), and is incompetent whether playing bridge or in planning and executing a murder. Everything that can go wrong does go wrong, and it is always someone else's fault.


My advice is not to start reading this book unless you can finish it in one read, or are an insomniac. It is 287 pages long, and each page is a joy. Using Nick's rating system, I give this book a 5/5.



Apologetic as I am to disagree I have to offer a contrary view. THE MURDER OF MY AUNT consists largely of a first-person narrative by Edward Powell detailing his various attempts to murder his Aunt Mildred. Edward is an utterly charmless and repellent individual; bone-idle and contemptuous of virtually everyone with whom he comes in contact, he is completely financially dependent on Mildred. They live together, endlessly irritating each other and engaging in acts of petty warfare, at Brynmawr near the (fictitious) village of Llwll.


As this book totally failed to charm me in any way whatever, I can only presume that its high-rating is due to its' being a first of its kind. There is of course no question as to whodunit as it is not a whodunit; the only suspense, such as it is, is as to the eventual outcome but this seemed staggeringly obvious to me (not the sharpest tool in the box when it comes to 'guessing' what will happen!). So given this lack of narrative or plot interest the book's appeal depends on the humour or charm of the narration.


Obviously it has no charm as Edward is loathsome. So the book's trick, such as it is, is to laugh at Edward through his own diary. Unfortunately he is such a powerless and ineffectual individual that the humour of this attempt escaped me. It should be stressed that there is no attempt whatever at any kind of psychological depth here (this is not a 'portrait of a murderer'); Edward's various 'sins' are wildly inconsistent - one minute he is being accused of being gay (the book is rabidly homo-phobic) at the next of attempting to seduce a maid; one minute he is deploring Fascists, the next proclaiming himself a Mosleyite. The only decent joke in the book comes right at the beginning with Edward's musings on the pronunciation of Llwll - but that shouldn't deceive one. The detailed retailing of his various failed attempts are simply tedious.


In the end not only was I signally unentertained by this book but I found it left rather a nasty taste in my mouth.






Comments (1)

thesaunders@... said

at 2:25 am on Aug 3, 2010

The two reviews, thus far, of this book effectively cancel one another out, which must be rather perplexing to a prospective reader. I would like to break the deadlock by cordially agreeing with Anita - this is a highly original and deliciously ironic novel, with an excellent twist at the end. The writing is effortless and a joy to read. The only reason I didn't finish it in one sitting is because, with such a book, I prefer to ration my reading in order to savour it to the full. There is a particular skill in writing in the first person - in my view, Richard Hull deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Wilkie Collins, Conan Doyle and others who have shown their mastery of this technique.


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