Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Five Identical Red Herrings

I can't quite believe I'm doing this - because I do love her; honest I do - but my bad classic is by Dorothy L Sayers.  Not only that, it's the one set in Scotland - land of the purple liver, land of my heart forever.  And not just Scotland - Galloway!  Where I lived for fifteen happy years, swimming in the icy pools under waterfalls and swatting midges with fern fronds on the bonny banks and braes.
I've done the literary walk around the real places used in the book. I've had a picnic at the bit of the Mennock Burn where the body tumbled into the water.  Heck, I've probably been on the fateful Girvan train.

But still.  The Five Red Herrings by DLS is (IMHO) a stinker.

Some of it is the dialect representation.  I know a bit about this one way and another and much as it hurts to write that someone says: "The moon's none the worse for a dog's bark" when what you hear in your head is: "The meen's nane the waur fur a dug's howf" you really can't, can you?  I mean it makes little enough sense in English as it is.

So the apostrophe-tastic depiction o' Sco'ish people talkin' is one thing.  But the main difficulty with the Five Red Herrings is the five red herrings (and the guilty party).  I think it would be possible to find six actual herrings, in a fishmonger's, that were easier to tell apart than Strachan, Fachan, Gachan, Wachan, Grachan and Fergachan. 

I'm kidding.  They're called Strachan, Farren, Gowan, Waters, Graham and Ferguson.  But they're all artists and they're all exactly the same.  In fact, for once I don't have any worries about spoilers slipping out because, although I've read FRH a couple of times and listened to a BBC radio dramatisation too, I still have no idea which one of them did it.

I know what you're thinking, by the way.  Yes, I read it again even though it's bad.  And then I listened to it in the form of a radio play too.  (In fact, when I was looking for jacket photos for this blog I saw that the telly version is on youtube and I might well watch it later.) What can I say?  I told you I love her.


Unknown said...

Catriona - I read that book and couldn't figure out who everyone was. Thank you for letting me know it wasn't my lack of Scottish-ness that caused the confusion! (And I love her too)

Robin Spano said...

Ha ha ha. You're funny even when you're trashing someone you love. Name confusion sucks--where was her editor?

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

It hurts to push loved ones down the stairs, doesn't it? Psst, I feel the same way about... never mind. I'm not telling because I'll be tarred and feathered.