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Lament For A Maker (Inspector Appleby) Paperback – January 15, 2001
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'Remarkable for strong and clear characterisation and–those distinctive qualities of the detection tale'
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Top Customer Reviews
His third novel is set in Scotland - a Scotland of miserly Lairds, of rat-infested castles, of unpleasant retainers, of scarecrows, and of snow and religion. The plot concerns the death of the miserly Ranald Guthrie, who falls to his death from the tower of Glen Erchany, Kinkeig, on Christmas Eve. Was it murder, suicide or accident? Enter Inspector John Appleby of Scotland Yard in order to investigate the death - he sifts through the rumours of handless corpses and arsenical poisoning, and pries into one of the most extraordinary cases of murder in crime fiction.
The denouement is one of the most ingenious and dazzling ever done, making it one of the ten best detective stories ever written, ranking with the best of John Dickson Carr and Gladys Mitchell. Well-written and a dazzling tour de force.
"I that in heill was and gladnèss
Am trublit now with great sickness
And feblit with infirmitie:-
Timor Mortis conturbat me."
A bit of Scots dialect and a little Latin wouldn't hurt in making sense of this Appleby mystery, and it is well worth the effort as "Lament for a Maker" is considered to be one of Michael Innes's best genre novels.
Inspector Appleby doesn't appear on scene at Erchany, Guthrie's castle until the last third of the book. There are five narrators in all, each with his own distinctive voice. There are also several solutions to the murder, and Innes makes each solution seem like the correct one when presented by one of the narrators. I think this is his most rigorous and plausible mystery---well, except for the intrusion of the messenger rats---this author cannot resist a slight touch of the surreal.
The Laird of Erchany, Ranald Guthrie has two outstanding traits: his miserliness, which is causing his castle to fall down around his ears; and his fear of death: he chants "Lament for a Maker" through his rat-infested halls, and the villagers of Kinkeig quite rightly think him mad. He is served by the Hardcastles, a seedy old couple, and Tammas, a brain-damaged boy. Even as Ranald Guthrie might remind you of an evil Prospero, and his niece Christine of Miranda, Tammas will make you think of Caliban.
Two guests are stranded at Erchany on Christmas Eve by a snow storm, and one of them just happens to be the Laird of Erchany's American heir.Read more ›
To tell you the truth, I got tired of the constantly shifting explanations of what Sybil Guthrie is said to have seen in the tower. Okay, okay, so it's the old Rashomon/Three Coffins story about how even eyewitnesses can be fooled into believing something that isn't true, and that the "evidence of things seen" should really be the last resort when trying to piece together what actually has occurred at a crime scene. For all the credence the several detective figures place on Miss Guthrie's account, I never saw why none of them doubted the essential tenor of what she had to say. Why shouldn't she have been lying her American heart out? She was the heiress, for goodness' sake. She's the one who had more motive than any of them to throw Ranald Guthrie down to the frozen maelstrom at the tower's distant base.
However that's neither here nor there. The eventual explanations for Hardcastle's inquiry about, "Oh hi, are you the doctor?" and for old mad, Ranald Guthrie, the legendary miser who picked the pockets of scarecrows hoping for some forgotten change, now changing his pitch and serving his guests caviar, are both excellently done and you will never guess!Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
One of Innes's pre-war masterpieces of mystery fiction, a pastiche with resonance of Wilkie Collins's The MoonstonePublished 5 months ago by robyn adaire, spanking writer
I really enjoy Michael Innes's writing most of the time. This book was less enjoyable than others. The plot was a good one, concerning the death of a Laird in the Scottish... Read morePublished on March 1, 2013 by Nancy J
When I first started reading this book I wasn't sure whether I was ever going to finish it as I just couldn't get into it. Read morePublished on February 9, 2013 by Damaskcat
Michael Innes has written many mysteries, all of them worth reading. LAMENT FOR A MAKER is an absolute classic! This is a book I will read over and over!Published on December 26, 2012 by Joy of Reading
I believe "Lament for a Maker" is Innes's finest book, towering above all of his other mysteries (and, yes, I have read them all). Read morePublished on March 2, 2010 by L. Blatt
This much admired Innes novel is actually one of my least favorite. The story of a mysterious death, in a snow storm, in Scotland, of the Laird of Erchany, is told by several... Read morePublished on January 31, 2010 by LizaJane
I have never read Michael Innes before, so I was not prepared for this book at all. It is wonderfully complex, and the characterizations are truly masterful. Read morePublished on January 20, 2007 by Shirley Schwartz