Saturday, January 21, 2006

Christianna Brand.

I've been reading with much pleasure Buffet for Unwelcome Guests: The Best Short Mysteries of Christianna Brand (ed. Francis M. Nevins Jr. and Martin H. Greenberg, 1983). Brand (1907?-1988) is probably best known for her superb WWII-era novel Green for Danger, which was made into a film in 1946 with Alastair Sim as Inspector Cockrill and Trevor Howard as Dr. Barnes (go here for the British Film Institute's site on Green for Danger). In addition, the upcoming movie Nanny McPhee with Emma Thompson is based on Brand's Nurse Matilda books for children, and she received a screenwriting credit on Secret People (1952), an early Audrey Hepburn film.

Brand's centenary is approaching (in 2007, although her friend and fellow scribe Robert Barnard says that she often fudged her birthdate and so her exact centenary may be a cause for doubt). The short stories in Buffet are terrific examples of Brand's razorlike prose and mastery of the twist ending and include a few with Inspector Cockrill. I was especially struck by "Murder Game," in which a man relates a case of mysterious death to someone who wants to figure out the culprit; Brand's numerous twists to the plot left me lost in admiration for her skill.

Brand once said, "[. . .C]rime novels are my real interest. I write them for no reason more pretentious than simply to entertain. I try to include, within the regulation puzzle form, good and interesting characterization, dialogue, and background [. . .]." The stories in Buffet more than amply fulfill these stated goals.

1 comment:

Po Pas Poe said...

One of the best attributes of Brand's writing is her ability to use the "red herring" so skillfully. I have started many of her tales and mentally crossed off a character early on, only to discover at the end that he was the guilty party...