Tag Archives: L. C. Tyler

The Herring Seller’s Apprentice by L.C.Tyler

This hugely enjoyable detective novel is the first of five books featuring Ethelred Tressider and Elsie Thirkettle. The intriguing title comes from the fact that Ethelred makes his living from setting out red herrings. He’s a fairly obscure crime novelist, juggling three series under pen names and Elsie is his wisecracking literary agent.

When Ethelred’s former wife is found murdered near his Sussex home, Elsie is keen they should investigate. After all, Ethelred’s had plenty of practice on paper and she’s incorrigibly nosy– how hard can it be?

Both leads are a delight to read. Ethelred is slightly out of step with modern life, a tweeds or panama sort of chap and very much his own man. Elsie’s sardonic, unimpressed by writers and needs a constant supply of chocolate to inspire her sleuthing.

I like the way the pair narrate different parts of the novel when it feels appropriate, not in alternate chapters. Their voices are distinctive with witty dialogue and wonderful asides on life. It’s a clever device to show two very different takes on certain scenes. The chapters fit together as intricately as jigsaw pieces and are very funny. L.C Tyler is very good at writing the way women think – and you could do worse than take Elsie’s advice.

The plot is gripping, full of quirky suspects and sly jokes about the world of crime-writing. There’s a lot of interest to be had in working out who may or may not be an unreliable narrator. Elsie’s loyalty to Ethelred is never in doubt, even though she’s the kind of friend who shoots from the hip and is always thinking of her agent’s percentage.

I know Findon, the village where Ethelred lives in the novel. L.C Tyler describes the landscape on the edge of the South Downs very well.

Although set in the present day, the Ethelred and Elsie novels have the feeling of a top-class entertainment from the Golden Age. The kind where there’s next to no gore and the emphasis is on a clever puzzle delivered with elegance and style. I have a suspicion that although L.C Tyler makes his sparkling prose look effortless, it takes a huge amount of talent and hard work to achieve that.

The story builds to a terrific, satisfying finale which had me going straight on to the next novel Ten Little Herrings. Something I rarely do but like Elsie and her chocolate, I simply had to have another fix.



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L. C. Tyler’s Crooked Herring

Now and again you stumble on a writer you like so much, you wonder where they’ve been all your life. This happened to me recently when I found L. C. Tyler’s Crooked Herring in a library. Mr Tyler has been completely off my radar despite a lifetime of lurking in bookshops and libraries, especially in the crime section.

It turns out he’s the Chair of the Crime Writers Association. All I can say is his publishers should be promoting his work everywhere. It’s a delight.

Crooked Herring is the latest in a series featuring Ethelred Tressider, a middle-aged, mid-list crime novelist and Elsie Thirkettle, his sidekick and literary agent. They are both wonderful creations, funny, vividly brought to life and very believable.

Ethelred is comfortably old fogeyish, slightly eccentric and out of step with modern British life. In the time-honoured tradition of sidekicks, Elsie is very different. Pithy, unscrupulous and addicted to chocolate, she leaps off the page.

Together they make a very entertaining duo. In Crooked Herring, Ethelred reluctantly finds himself investigating a possible murder without a body. A baffling puzzle that gradually turns sinister and leaves him needing Elsie’s rather unpredictable assistance.

I love L. C Tyler’s writing style. Ethelred and Elsie exchange witty one-liners in the tradition of Dashiell Hammett’s Nick and Norah Charles (The Thin Man films); Francis Durbridge’s Steve and Paul Temple and Agatha Christie’s Tommy and Tuppence Beresford. Though these two are no cosy married couple. They are original and more akin to the warring friends of Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple (one of my favourite films).

Although the setting is contemporary with talk of iPhones and amazon reviews, there’s a delicious whiff of the Golden Age about this series. They have lovely 1930s Batsford illustration-style covers and great titles. Crooked Herring is sparkling, stylish, quirky and very clever. It sweeps the reader on a glorious romp with the perfect balance of tongue-in-cheek humour and a devious plot.

This novel was particularly enjoyable for me with its Sussex setting of Chichester and the surrounding countryside, an area I love. Chichester is a charming place with a largely Georgian centre and an important Roman past. It is a city only by virtue of its splendid Norman cathedral, still retaining the flavour of a country market town; bookshops, flowers, tea-rooms and quiet corners.

To the south lie the marshes and creeks around Chichester Harbour, an area surprisingly lonely for southern England. Northwards are villages of flint and thatch among chalk downlands, within the U.K’s newest National Park. L. C. Tyler has lived in the area and catches its atmosphere – something like a Margery Allingham setting – very well.

I’ve since bought my own copy of Crooked Herring and the first two in the series. Can’t wait to see how it all began.
If like me, you’ve missed out on L. C. Tyler, do seek out his work. You’ll be in for a treat.

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