The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie

I picked The Gun Seller up when I was in a library thinking, is it the same Hugh Laurie – and sure enough it is. The book was first published in 1996 and was re-issued in 2009.

This book is hilarious, more than a laugh a minute, certainly up until the last third of the book when the storyline gets quite convoluted, or should I just say confusing. Possibly that was because I was reading it at bedtime.

I was hoping that there was a large back catalogue of Hugh Lawrie books which I could get stuck into but sadly there isn’t. Mind you, fair’s fair, he obviously has a very busy and successful life. In fact I couldn’t help thinking to myself that it is really quite unfair that there is so much talent inside one human being!

If you enjoy sarcastic wit then you’ll like this book. Thomas Lang is an ex-Scots Guard who has been approached by someone who wants him to carry out a contract killing, but Lang is a good guy, not that that helps matters. Things quickly get out of control.

Hugh Laurie is of Scottish descent, as you would expect with a name like his. Both his parents were Scottish and he does use the Scottish word ‘jink’ quite a few times in this book, it means to ‘dodge around’. It’s often used to describe footballers I think.

Apparently Laurie had quite a difficult relationship with his mother as she was a strict Presbyterian and as often happens when people move away from their own roots (they moved to England) she seems to have been even more rigid and dour than the Presbyterians who stayed at home and maybe loosened up a bit over the years.

Laurie is a bit disgruntled by his childhood experiences but I think that he probably has his mother to thank for his sense of humour, imagination and multiple talents. Presbyterian upbringings can be grim but also very nurturing to the senses and imagination, something which Hugh Lawrie has in abundance. It has been nearly 20 years since this book was first published and his next book is long overdue, I hope he gets around to finishing it soon.

The Demoniacs by John Dickson Carr

The Demoniacs

I bought this book quite recently at a charity shop I think and I was quite disappointed when I realised that this is one of Dickson Carr‘s historical whodunnits, set in London in 1757. The 1930s/40s and 50s are really my favourite crime settings, it’s all those steam trains and Austin Healys that I love. It was first published in 1962.

But I thoroughly enjoyed The Demoniacs which is a great mixture of murder and romance. Jeffrey Wynne is a sort of under cover Bow Street Runner, he has already saved Peg Ralston, a beautiful young heiress from a fate worse than death in a so called high class French brothel. On getting Peg back to London Jeffrey discovers that she is in even worse danger there, can he come to her rescue again?

Dickson Carr uses real historical figures such as Laurence Sterne the author of Tristram Shandy, and John Fielding, the famous ‘blind beak’ who set up the Bow Street Runners.

The whole atmosphere feels right, Dickson Carr must have done a lot of reaearch about the period, the only thing which grated slightly was one minor character at the beginning who kept saying things like ‘split my bottom’ – it reminded me of the silly ass character in Blackadder played by Hugh Laurie.