Mortdcai Ques #11: What is it, she said, poking at it with the toe of her shoe.

by Kyril Bonfiglioli

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Mortdcai Ques #11: What is it, she said, poking at it with the toe of her shoe.

Unread postby fireflydances » Thu Mar 05, 2015 9:31 pm

Did Bonfiglioli write mystery stories or something else?
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Re: Question #11: What is it, she said, poking at it with the toe of her shoe.

Unread postby nebraska » Fri Mar 06, 2015 5:18 pm

I would classify the Great Moustache Mystery as a mystery .... with lots of layers of character study and humor.

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Re: Question #11: What is it, she said, poking at it with the toe of her shoe.

Unread postby Liz » Fri Mar 06, 2015 11:40 pm

A mystery, yes.....but not just a mystery plot, but a mystery behind his words.

Frankly, I don't think you can classify him. I hate labels. And he probably did too.
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Re: Mortdcai Ques #11: What is it, she said, poking at it with the toe of her shoe.

Unread postby fireflydances » Sat Mar 07, 2015 12:32 pm

Now, I have only one Mortdecai read to base this on, but I can't help wondering if Bonfiglioli wasn't just having fun with the genre of the mystery tale, and particularly the English version of same.

Consider the following early scenes between Dryden and Charlie where the former was attempting to describe to what happened to poor Bronwen:

(p. 22) Then I said to Dryden, "Was Bronwen subject to fits of ungovernable rage? Had she a tumour, perhaps, on the brain? Was she prone to epilepsy?"

"No, she had not the falling-sickness and her habit of life was so regular and unremarkable as to verge on the tedious. Until last week, that is."

"You mean until death did her part?"

"No, no, she died early this week. I refer to the two men."

"John," I said patiently, passing a patient hand across my furrowed brow, "I have been following your narrative intently so far and I am prepared to offer you a great deal of seven to three that you have not yet drawn any two men into the sketch. What two men?"

"Well, you should really ask [Link]which[/Link] two men, for there were two lots, each of two men, you see."

I shut my eyes tightly and took a few deep breaths.

"No, I fear I do not see, John. For once you are not being your usual lucid self."

"It is hard to pursue a rational train of thought in the midst of all these interruptions," he answered petulantly as Jock placed a laden muffineer before him.


Further on.....

(p. 25 -26) "I daresay, it was ever thus. However, when he told Bronwen that he had himself seen two such men frequenting the neighborhood, "she came," as he put it, "all over funny" and he took her into the porters' cubbyhole and gave her a chair and a cup of strong, sweet tea. She was, he says, "sort of pleased and frightened both." ..................

"As to the other two men," he went on, placing his fingertips together as to form a little churchlet, "I have already hinted, have I not, that we cannot assume that they were the same as the first two, although they, too, were large and clad in dark suits..."

"Yes, John?" I asked patiently, helpfully. His thoughts seemed to be far away. I brought the port decanter in and set it before him. He seemed to collect himself after the first sip or two.

"Yes, he went on, "the other two men -- if they were indeed other--presented themselves at Scone the day after Bronwen shuffled off her mortal coil and showed the Wardensome most impressive credentials. He is unable clearly but all he could swear to was that the men's authority appeared to come from the Ministry of Certain Things. I fancy he was jesting. He is, as you know, a Constitutional Historian by trade and much blessed with children: such men live in a world quite different from ours, quite different."



I have to admit to having read several mysteries by Agatha Christie and several other British writers, whose names I can't recall. There were always long and complex discussions about the crime, who might be involved, etc. And when I concentrate on Bonfiglioli's sentences, they parody this whole class of story. It's not a full on madcap romp across the genre, but it definitely brings giggles to mind. He is capturing what those writers did and do in all great seriousness and giving us a nitrious-oxigenated version of the proceeding. I also can't help recalling that infamously hyterical Abbot and Costello routine "Who's On First."

So, I guess, I wonder whether we shouldn't consider Bonfiglioli's ultimate purpose as humor, and humor alone, d*mn the crime, d*mn its resolution? That would explain why the details of the unraveling of the guilty party seem like an after thought, like who cares, we had fun, didn't we?

Just a thought.
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Re: Mortdcai Ques #11: What is it, she said, poking at it with the toe of her shoe.

Unread postby nebraska » Sat Mar 07, 2015 2:23 pm

fireflydances wrote: who cares, we had fun, didn't we?

Just a thought.

That sort of captures my feelings about the book and the movie in a nutshell, nutshell mongers, allusions, and all. I really don't think Mortdecai is a fellow to take too seriously. I read the book (twice) for fun and enjoyed it in that frame of mind. Bon wrote it in such a way that many different kinds of readers could find satisfaction in his story. :cool:

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Re: Mortdcai Ques #11: What is it, she said, poking at it with the toe of her shoe.

Unread postby fireflydances » Sun Mar 08, 2015 1:26 am

That's a pretty decent review nebraska. :cool:
"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed and some few to be chewed and digested." Sir Francis Bacon, Of Studies

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Re: Mortdcai Ques #11: What is it, she said, poking at it with the toe of her shoe.

Unread postby Liz » Tue Mar 10, 2015 2:12 pm

fireflydances wrote:That's a pretty decent review nebraska. :cool:

Agreed. :mortdecaiheart:
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Re: Mortdcai Ques #11: What is it, she said, poking at it with the toe of her shoe.

Unread postby Don Wells » Tue Mar 24, 2015 10:59 am

Again, I'm late to the party. Sorry.
Bon wrote some poetry, short stories and one other novel, which I think was his best. It's called "All the Tea in China" and tells the story of Charlie's ancestor Carolus (Karli) van Cleef and his adventures on the high seas, in London and China at the height of the opium trade.
Bon was editor of the magazine "Science Fantasy"from 1964 for some year, I believe, and later was a columnist for the Jersey Post. That's not the American Jersey. This one's in the Channel Islands (just a few miles from France, but part of Britain). I'll be there in September, hoping to meet people who knew him.

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Re: Mortdcai Ques #11: What is it, she said, poking at it with the toe of her shoe.

Unread postby Liz » Wed Mar 25, 2015 2:15 am

Don, if you wouldn't mind, let us know what you learn from your visit to Jersey.
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Re: Mortdcai Ques #11: What is it, she said, poking at it with the toe of her shoe.

Unread postby Don Wells » Wed Mar 25, 2015 12:55 pm

Try and stop me!

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Re: Mortdcai Ques #11: What is it, she said, poking at it with the toe of her shoe.

Unread postby shadowydog » Thu Mar 26, 2015 9:39 am

Don Wells wrote:Try and stop me!



Thanks Don for popping in and giving us these insights into the author. They bring the book and the movie alive for us.
I have nothing to do and all day to do it in.


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