Category: 42 Word Retrospectives


Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu (The Dark Blue, 1871-1872) A very early vampire novella, constrained by attitudes of the time yet nonetheless pursuing a lesbian angle and affording an uncommon measure of female empowerment. Le Fanu for the most part hints subtly at the supernatural, but resorts at last to exposition.

The Case of the Gilded Fly

The Case of the Gilded Fly by Edmund Crispin (Victor Gollancz, 1944); audiobook read by Paul Panting (HarperCollins, 2017) Crispin’s quasi-humorous style (satirically intended but sordidly directed) comes across merely as tiresome. The mystery’s ‘ingenious’ solution proves elusive mostly due to being ludicrously improbable and thoroughly reliant on coincidences. Gervase Fen, though a striking protagonist, doesn’t appear for the first…

Death at the Bar

Death at the Bar by Ngaio Marsh (Collins, 1940); audiobook read by Nadia May (Blackstone Audio, 1976) Marsh withholds her protagonist from the early pages in favour of a lengthy set-up, which is reiterated at the inquest and then rehashed a second time when Alleyn, whose personality remains by far the novel’s chief appeal, is finally permitted to investigate.

A Damsel in Distress

A Damsel in Distress by P G Wodehouse (Herbert Jenkins, 1919); audiobook read by Frederick Davidson (Blackstone Audio, 1993) For readers without a Blandings Castle novel to hand, this early Wodehouse comedy will oblige most admirably as a surrogate. While the plot involves misunderstandings of romantic entanglement, these serve merely to backdrop the page-by-page brush swirl of Wodehouse’s exquisitely trenchant…

K-9 and Company

K-9 and Company: A Girl’s Best Friend by Terence Dudley; dir. John Black (BBC, 1981) A bizarrely misjudged attempt at a Doctor Who spin-off. Elisabeth Sladen and Ian Sears do well but the opening credits scream allegiance to Metal Mickey and this synth-schlock carries over into the incidental music, flambéing all menace from the Devil’s End plot.

Doctor Who: Galaxy Four

Doctor Who: Galaxy Four by William Emms; dir. Derek Martinus (BBC, 1965/2021) The animation is more rudimentary than that of the Troughton releases. Vicki (Maureen O’Brien) is done a particular disservice outside of the surviving footage. Nonetheless, the story is watchable and the colour version in particular features splendid landscapes and memorable character designs.