This image is from the first Sherlock Holmes novel A Study In Scarlet, written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1886. In it, Holmes is called in by the police to investigate the murder of a man whom he concludes was killed by poison. Later, at the site of a secondary murder, a pill box is found which contains only two pills. Holmes and Watson return to Baker Street with Inspectors Lestrade and Gregson in tow and test the pills on an old, sickly terrier who is currently in residence there. The first pill has no effect at all, but after eating the second pill the unfortunate animal dies. Holmes realizes that the murderer for some reason made his crime a gamble or turn of fate... his victim had the option of choosing either the harmless pill or the poisonous one. Holmes must discover who is committing these murders and why.
Gosford Park is a Robert Altman film which was released in 2001. It is a murder mystery which is set at an English country manor in the early 1930's. The movie has a huge cast, but the main character is Mary MacEachran, an inexperienced ladies' maid working for the Countess of Trentham. The Countess is going to a shooting party being held at the country home- Gosford Park- of Sir William McCordle and his wife Lady Sylvia. The Countess (Constance) is an elderly relation of Lady Sylvia's- actually, almost all of the guests are some sort of relation to her. There is Isobel, the McCordle's ungainly, unhappy daughter, as well as Sylvia's sister Louisa and her husband Raymond, Lord Stockbridge. Sylvia's youngest sister Lady Lavinia is also on site with her husband Lt. Commander Anthony Meredith. There are a few guests who aren't related to Sylvia: the Honorable Freddie Nesbitt and his wife Mabel, as well Lord Rupert Standish and his friend Jeremy Blond. Also arriving for the party is matinee idol Ivor Novello who is a cousin to Sir William; he has brought with him an American film director named Morris Weissman.
Downstairs, the cast is just as extensive. The Gosford Park staff includes Mr. Jennings, the stern butler and Mrs. Wilson the efficient housekeeper. There's also Mrs. Croft, the cook, Probert, Sir William's valet, and Elsie, the head housemaid. There are two footmen: George and Arthur; Lewis is Lady Sylvia's personal maid, and Dorothy is the still room maid. There are also a number of kitchen maids, housemaids, boot boys, etc. Visiting staff, in addition to Lady Trentham's maid Mary, includes Robert Parks, Lord Raymond's valet, Morris Weissman's valet Henry Denton, and Anthony's valet Barnes. Louisa's and Lavinia's maids Renee and Sarah are also in attendance, as well as an assortment of chauffeurs, etc.
The house party gets underway and we begin to witness a number of personal dramas and intrigues playing out both upstairs and down. And then someone murders Sir William. With such an enormous amount of people in the house, it's nearly an impossible task for the police to figure out what happened, especially since no one is particularly interested in helping them. Almost everyone has something to hide, and a good few of them had reasons to wish Sir William dead. In part two of my summary, I'll break down the motives of the various characters but won't divulge who actually committed the murder.
My sister walked out into her backyard and found her kids playing a game of Trivial Pursuit Junior with a few modifications, starting with the name. They called it "Quiz Hose"; the kid asking the questions had the garden hose, and anyone who answered a question wrong "got the hose".
This is the cottage we rented during our stay on Prince Edward Island:
"I am excessively fond of a cottage; there is always so much comfort, so much elegance about them. And I protest, if I had any money to spare, I should buy a little land and build one myself, within a short distance of London, where I might drive myself down at any time, and collect a few friends about me and be happy. I advise everybody who is going to build, to build a cottage." - Jane Austen, Sense And Sensibility
A couple of years ago, I gave my sister this book: A Girl From Yamhill for Christmas. It's a memoir written by Beverly Cleary- author of the Ramona books, Henry Huggins books, etc.-about her childhood. I also gave my sister its sequel- My Own Two Feet- which details Cleary's college years, meeting her husband, and writing her first book. I nobly refrained from reading them before I gave them as a gift... I may have peeked a little... so was glad to find a copy of A Girl From Yamhill. I'm looking forward to reading it. If it's good, I'll borrow the sequel from my sister. If it's really good, I'll buy a copy. Incidentally, Beverly Cleary is still alive and is 102 years old. Her husband, to whom she was married for 64 years, died in 2004.
I was excited to find a copy of the 1934 novel Good-bye Mr. Chips and Other Stories. It tells the story of Mr. Chipping, who arrives to teach at Brookfield School (a British boarding school) in 1870 at the age of 22. He eventually becomes headmaster and ends up staying at the school for the rest of his life, retiring to a small house on the school property in 1933 at the age of 85. The book follows his life as he goes from being a stern and rather overly-earnest young teacher, to being mellowed by falling in love and experiencing grief and loss. He becomes a beloved institution at the school, teaching generations of some families, able to squelch students- good humouredly- with tales of their grandfather's behaviour (or misbehaviour) years before. I haven't yet read the book, but I have seen the 1939 film of it, which I quite enjoyed.