Characterization is sacrificed for plot in Bats in the Belfry.
There are a multitude of characters in Bats in the Belfry. Most are only vaguely fleshed out. We first meet the main players at a funeral where they begin to discuss how they would hide a dead body. Old Agatha Christie paperbacks always included a cast of characters at the beginning of the book. However, this book doesn’t have one so here is my own:
- Bruce Attleton, former bestselling author but now nearly destitute
- Sybilla Attleton, wife of Bruce, famous actress and family breadwinner
- Elizabeth Leigh, Bruce’s ward
- Debrette, a mysterious foreigner who wants to speak desperately to Bruce
- Thomas Burroughs, rich family friend perhaps too interested in Sybilla
- Neil Rockingham, another family friend who is worried about Bruce’s reaction to Debrette
- Robert Grenville, hopeful suitor of Elizabeth who is willing to check into Debrette for Neil
The plot has so many twists that admittedly I gave up trying to decipher the victim much less the murderer by the mid-point. If you wait until the end, the murderer is easily determined by seeing who has not either been killed or at least wounded yet.
Written in 1937, the convoluted plot in Bats in the Belfry holds up well for modern audiences. The best part was some of the 30s slang like ker-wite, bally-nix and prosy. I was surprised that most of the words were found by my Kindle simply by clicking on the word so I would recommend reading this book on a Kindle just so you aren’t constantly looking up words on your phone. I was also surprised by the use of nouns for verbs (that practice that drives me crazy now) like corpsed for killed. The reverse was also true. For example, bury-ee is used for corpse.
Bats in the Belfry was a good, not great, golden-age British mystery. It is recommended for those readers that look more for plot than characterization in their fiction. 3 stars.
Thanks to the publisher, Poisoned Pen Press, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.