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Lament For A Maker (Inspector Appleby) Paperback – January 15, 2001

4.6 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews
Book 3 of 35 in the Inspector Appleby Series

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Editorial Reviews


'Remarkable for strong and clear characterisation and–those distinctive qualities of the detection tale'

About the Author

Born in Edinburgh in 1906, the son of the city's Director of Education, John Innes Mackintosh Stewart wrote a highly successful series of mystery stories under the pseudonym Michael Innes. Innes was educated at Oriel College, Oxford, where he was presented with the Matthew Arnold Memorial Prize and named a Bishop Frazer's scholar. After graduation he went to Vienna, to study Freudian psychoanalysis for a year and following his first book, an edition of Florio's translation of Montaigne, was offered a lectureship at the University of Leeds. In 1932 he married Margaret Hardwick, a doctor, and they subsequently had five children including Angus, also a novelist. The year 1936 saw Innes as Professor of English at the University of Adelaide, during which tenure he wrote his first mystery story, 'Death at the President's Lodging'. With his second, 'Hamlet Revenge', Innes firmly established his reputation as a highly entertaining and cultivated writer. After the end of World War II, Innes returned to the UK and spent two years at Queen's University, Belfast where in 1949 he wrote the 'Journeying Boy', a novel notable for the richly comedic use of an Irish setting. He then settled down as a Reader in English Literature at Christ Church, Oxford, from which he retired in 1973. His most famous character is 'John Appleby', who inspired a penchant for donnish detective fiction that lasts to this day. Innes's other well-known character is 'Honeybath', the painter and rather reluctant detective, who first appeared in 1975 in 'The Mysterious Commission'. The last novel, 'Appleby and the Ospreys', was published in 1986, some eight years before his death in 1994. 'A master - he constructs a plot that twists and turns like an electric eel: it gives you shock upon shock and you cannot let go.' - Times Literary Supplement.

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Product Details

  • Series: Inspector Appleby (Book 3)
  • Paperback: 282 pages
  • Publisher: House of Stratus; New edition edition (January 15, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1842327410
  • ISBN-13: 978-1842327418
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #174,419 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
There is one major problem with the works of Michael Innes: his love of fantasy, which either gives strength to the story in the eccentricities of the convoluted plot (see Gladys Mitchell), or it ruins the story completely, especially in his later works.
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.
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Format: Paperback
Threaded throughout "Lament for a Maker" (1938) is the haunting strain of William Dunbar's (1465-1520?) medieval dirge of that name:
"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.
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Format: Textbook Binding
This is an excellent and atmospheric piece of light mystery fiction. The plot is gradually revealed through the narratives of different characters (an old Scottish shoemaker, a young socialite, an observant young man, Inspector Appleby, and others), persuasively written by Innes. The writing is superbly witty (the Scottish laird who's the subject of the tale is described by a group of psychiatrists determining his mental fitness as "having a warm and affectionate nature fatally warped by the trauma of birth."). Considering that the book was written before WWII, it has a remarkably contemporary feel. If I had to take one mystery with me for a stay on a desert island, this would be it because of the quality of the characters and the writing, and its tolerance for being repeatedly read with delight.
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Format: Paperback
Pulls one solution of the hat, then another and another, and unlike some of the later books, Sir John Appleby himself is far from being the last word on thr truth. Appleby gets some of the clues, but his distance from Scottish culture leaves him at a loss when it comes to contextualization. Sometimes he can't see what's right in front of his face.

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!
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