Book Review: In the Crypt with a Candlestick

In the Crypt with a Candlestick is a thoroughly enjoyable country house caper, with a marvellously dysfunctional family at its core, and household staff to make Downton Abbey’s toes curl.  It was a short, easy read, full of likeable characters, laugh-out-loud twists, and arguably one of the best-dressed ghosts I’ve ever come across.

contemporary fiction | murder mystery | humour

Rating: 4 out of 5.

dust cover blurb

Sir Ecgbert Tode of Tode Hall has survived to a grand old age – much to the despair of his younger wife, Emma. But at ninety-three he has, at last, shuffled off the mortal coil.

Emma, Lady Tode, thoroughly fed up with being a dutiful Lady of the Manor, wants to leave the country to spend her remaining years in Capri. Unfortunately her three tiresome children are either unwilling or unable (too mad, too lefty or too happy in Australia) to take on management of their large and important home, so the mantle passes to a distant relative and his glamorous wife.

Not long after the new owners take over, Lady Tode is found dead in the mausoleum. Accident? Or is there more going on behind the scenes of Tode Hall than an outsider would ever guess….?

Author – Daisy Waugh | Published by – Piatkus in February 2020 | Pages – 278 (hardback)

In the traditions of two great but very different British writers, Agatha Christie and P.G. Wodehouse, Waugh’s hilarious and entirely original twist on the country house murder mystery comes complete with stiff upper lips, even stiffer drinks, and any stiffs that might embarrass the family getting smartly brushed under the carpet. (Publisher’s description)

my thoughts

Whilst the publisher describes this book as being in the styles of Agatha Christie and P.G. Wodehouse, I’m more inclined to add; “has hints of Rentaghost and Fawlty Towers, with overtones of W1A.”   I’ve added links (Wikipedia / BBC) to each of those programmes, for anyone who missed out on these great TV series (too young / never heard of it *delete as appropriate) 

I’m one of the first to admit to judging a book by its cover, but In the Crypt with a Candlestick has been a lesson for me to perhaps reconsider this strategy.  The Art Deco style cover design had me thinking this story was set in the 1920s.  Then there’s the quote on the back cover by a reviewer for The Lady, describing the book as ‘Gripping, powerful, evocative’ … well, I can only assume they had confused their copy with that of Wuthering Heights. Why? Because upon reaching page 4, I found myself in the midst of a thoroughly present-day funeral, complete with eco-cardboard coffin, health and safety waiver forms, and pink wellington boots. And the tone could never be described as ‘gripping’, ‘powerful’, or ‘evocative’, but this is an observation not a criticism by any means.  It’s witty and sharp; a satirical dark comedy.

As the book’s reader, you get the immediate sensation of having landed in the middle of one of the better murder mystery weekends.  Somewhat dysfunctional family members dip in and out of your field of vision, dropping hints and making you question your initial suspicions.  Then there’s the staff – most notably Mr & Mrs Carfizzi – whose own secrets and relationships serve to muddy the waters even more.  A dashing, womanising ex actor – now the star of a coffee commercial – adds a touch of glamour, whilst Alice, the recently appointed ‘Manager of Fun’ just wants to get on with the job … if someone could only explain what it actually is.

The book is brimming with English eccentricities, elicit affairs, a ludicrously handsome gamekeeper, drawing rooms, art-filled corridors and sweeping staircases.  It’s Cluedo-camp crime at its best, starring a beautifully caustic ghost with a penchant for Balmain. 

set the scene

Is that a G&T, I see here, darling? Yes please.  Lots of ice for me!  And lots of gin!

India Tode

My love of the humble G&T is well documented, so it’s probably no surprise that I seized upon that quote to inspire my chosen accompaniment for this book. There may just be two ingredients (four if you count the ice and garnish) but its very simplicity can be its downfall in inconsiderate hands. A few years ago I was lucky enough to spend a day in the company of Sam and Fairfax, founders of the Sipsmith Distillery. So it feels only right to defer to their expertise and guidance on how to make a tip-top, utterly perfect G&T.

Have you read a book whose cover differed hugely from the story within? I’d love to hear more about it. Did you enjoy the book as much, or were you unable to get over the misleading cover?

3 thoughts on “Book Review: In the Crypt with a Candlestick

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