Cover Image: Murder's a Swine

Murder's a Swine

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Member Reviews

What a blast this book is!  As an avid Golden Era mystery reader, I was thrilled with this hugely funny and clever and almost farcical tale.  Martin Edwards always does a splendid job of writing introductions, too.  Such fun settling down on a cold showy day with a warm mystery, set in London in 1943.  It was written during the Phoney War so there are digs and jabs.

Amateur sleuth Agnes Kinghof is at hand when a body is discovered.  But the body count doesn't end with one.  Agnes is up for anything and inveigling and adventuring are not beyond her scope. She dives right in.  Andrew's cousin, Scotland Yard's Lord "Pig" Whitestone endures their antics and at times dabbles in their breed of funny.  Not only are the characters quirky but so are names (Inspector Eggshell and more) and circumstances.  Though the war is on, this lighthearted mystery with numerous rabbit holes is a fabulous (!) distraction.  The "Pig-Sticker" is finally revealed and other mysteries are resolved.  Romance is sprinkled throughout.

Those who appreciate Golden Era mysteries ought to read this enjoyable charmer.  The writing caused me to laugh out loud several times.

My sincere, thank you to Poisoned Pen Press and NetGalley for the privilege of reading this winning book!  Thank you for doing such a marvelous job in republishing these delightful gems.
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"Murder's a Swine" was a fun romp set in London during the early days of WWII but written more in the style of screwball romantic comedy than period mystery. Married sleuths Agnes and Andrew Kinghof are plunged into a murder investigation when Agnes takes a smoke break in a bomb shelter and discovers a body concealed amongst the sandbags. More murders and attempted murders follow before they crack the case, but the real entertainment is in the interesting period detail which brings 1940s London alive, and the repartee between Agnes and Andrew, which is reminiscent of the banter between Nick and Nora in "The Thin Man." Quick and entertaining.

Thank you to NetGalley and Poisoned Pen Press for providing me with an ARC of this title in return for my honest review.
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trigger warning
<spoiler> racism, slur towards native americans, kidnapping, fat-shaming, misogyny, mention of child abuse </spoiler>

World War II, London: A corpse is found in the sandbags that are part of the bomb protection plan, coinciding with some weird pranks pulled on an old woman. 

This is the second part of a series, but I didn't read the first one and had no problems understanding this one. Protagonists are an army guy and his spouse, who live in a small flat in a building where not every flat is occupied. Everybody knows their neighbors.
When the army guy, Andrew, is on leave, he visits his wife just in time for strange things that are happening, and since they're that kind of people, they stick their noses into the affairs of others to try and solve the case, to the annoyance of his cousin, who is a high-ranking Scotland Yard person.

As you can see, we have tropes that hold up to this day: The well-off middle class people who have enough time for their favourite hobby, snooping. The police guy who has to deal yet again with civilians going where they have no business to be. A limited cast of characters.
Since I am the first person to say that I dislike books set in WWII, I can assure you that the war may be an important part of the backdrop, but this is not a war book. It's more about the setting, some quirks like having blackout curtains, rationing is on. The racism, of course. This was written in another time, and some forms of slang haven't aged well. 

It was okay. Not very memorable but that does also mean it didn't do anything especially bad. I'd rather read Agatha Christie, but well, she's the Queen of Crime for a reason.
Apart from the crime aspect, I enjoyed reading something set in the WWII time period without it really being about WWII, because life got on somehow, regardless of what was happening elsewhere.

If you're into crime and are interested in seeing how it developed over time, this would be a good one to pick up.
The arc was provided by the publisher.
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Nap Lombard wasn't a classic mystery author that I was familiar with, but I'll definitely be checking out the other book that this husband and wife team wrote.  Written early in WWII, the book is set in wartime London, yet manages to convey a light-hearted romp, despite the war, and despite the murders. The action is cinematic in  scope and begs to be made into a film, though attitudes towards women should be updated - though Agnes, the main character, can hold her own. The dialogue is very funny in a dry, British manner. 

This was quite a pleasure to discover and is a classic indeed!

4/5 stars
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Eccentric And Quirky…
Eccentric and quirky classic crime with the usual informative and entertaining introduction by Martin Edwards which always, always well worth reading. Featuring a pair of amateur sleuths this war time crime is both light and enjoyable, laced with witty asides but also historical detail.
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Available in December from Poisoned Pen Press stateside – the reprinted title is already launched in the UK – 1943’s Murder’s a Swine receives a worthy revival. In his introduction, Martin Edwards explains that Swine (U.S. title, The Grinning Pig) is one of two spirited mystery stories produced during the war years by British literary couple Gordon Neil Stewart and Pamela Hansford Johnson. Both this book and Tidy Death (1940), their prior detection thriller published under the name Nap Lombard, feature socialites Andrew and Agnes Kinghof, a bantering couple in the style of Nick and Nora Charles. To their credit, the Kinghofs aren’t quite as besotted with booze and prove more enjoyable company than Craig Rice’s American equivalents, Helene Brandt and Jake Justus.
Indeed, the style and tone of Murder’s a Swine is intelligent and charming, and if the puzzle plot (and especially the means of coercing the killer to confess) falls a little short, the prose and characterization – not to mention an intriguing setting that provides a snapshot of English suburban living in the early days of the war – keep the reader engaged and entertained. Along with an ARP warden, Agnes Kinghof uncovers the body of a man hidden among sandbags in a darkened alley. The victim proves to be an estranged relative of one of the Kinghofs’ neighbors, a kindly woman with a weak heart named Mrs. Sibley. She soon becomes the target of escalating, pig-centered pranks, with a sow’s head appearing in the service lift and another head popping up uninvited at a Punch and Judy show.
Despite the couple’s efforts, the malevolent prankster soon dispatches Mrs. Sibley, and seems to have set his sights on another relation, “Bubbles” Ashton. Andrew and Agnes work to protect the young woman, and the felicitously named Inspector Eggshell also keeps a close watch. It is Andrew’s cousin, the alternately magisterial and misanthropic Lord Whitestone, who resents the pair’s meddling: the man has ties to Scotland Yard and the Home Office and finds Andrew to be a personal irritant. Due to his stubbornness and portly carriage, Agnes has dubbed Lord Whitestone, half affectionately, “Pig”.

The story is decently plotted and well-paced, and the co-authors display an astute eye for narrative detail. The observational humor regarding characters and situations reminded me at times of the humanist tone I love to find in the novels of Gladys Mitchell. Take this example: Lord Whitestone reluctantly accepts an invitation from the Kinghofs for a night out, only to be held captive as an audience member for a charity talent show featuring Boy Scouts and Girl Guides. The authors describe the scene (and Pig’s growing discomfiture) in this amusing and vivid way: 

    After a few more couplets and a dance, the girls disappeared, only to reappear a few moments later to receive the thunderous applause of their fathers and mothers. When they had disappeared for good, the last three tripping over Bessie Milton, who was trying to get more than her fair share of the reception, a stringy young woman with glasses and pale-blue false teeth announced that Scout Percy Fiddle would give an impersonation of Mae West. This was so embarrassing that Pig took out his season ticket and read it carefully front and back until Percy had bowed his way off the stage.

Stewart and Johnson’s use of their wartime backdrop is also notable, especially as it is used mostly organically. Scenes such as a meeting to discuss residential fire safety precautions and negotiations with a local shopkeeper to purchase rationed meat and dairy are both historically interesting as well as neatly character defining. 

I was surprised at how much menace was actually on display; the villain of this story takes more pleasure in terrorizing of his targets than he does moving towards his goal of inheriting a fortune. The Kinghofs conclude early in the story that the criminal is likely a man named Maclagan Steer, a black sheep bearing a grudge against family members he has not seen in decades while exiled abroad. But where the vengeful figure is now, and who he might be impersonating incognito to get closer to his relations, propels the mystery through to a gathering-of-suspects and unmasking-the-killer climax. It’s all very good fun (if a little dark and suspenseful at times), and I am grateful to Martin Edwards, Poisoned Pen Press, and the British Library Crime Classics series for returning this Pig to the page.
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And back we go to the fantastic British Crime Classic reissues, this time it’s another WWII mystery in “Murder's a Swine: A Second World War Mystery” by the husband-wife duo Nap Lombard.

Our amateur detectives are Captain Andrew and Mrs. Agnes Kinghof, a light-hearted and heavy drinking well-off couple, obviously very much influenced by Nick and Nora Charles of the Thin Man books by Dashiell Hammett (of course, Mr. Hammett’s stories are much better, no offense intended). Agnes wanders into an air-raid shelter, having forgotten her key, where she discovers a corpse hidden beneath the sandbags. It turns out to be the estranged brother of old Mrs. Sibley, who lives in one of the upper flats, and who is being persecuted by a man wearing a pig’s head and leaving threatening notes.

Agnes and Andrew are delighted with the chance to solve a mystery (between cocktails and god-awful sherry), helping Inspector Eggshell while being warned off by Andrew’s cousin at Scotland Yard, Lord “Pig” Whitestone. The identity of the culprit is pretty obvious, but which one of the residents can be the disguised culprit? We go back and forth with everyone having secrets and falling in love while traipsing through the British countryside and London, until a second murder and several attacks start our detectives on the path to taking this seriously. The ending is a bit farfetched, but the ride itself was quite enjoyable.

A light mystery that doesn’t take itself too seriously, set early in WWII before the horrors really began. Approach this with the right frame of mind and you will have an enjoyable read.

I requested and received a free advanced electronic copy from Poisoned Pen Press via NetGalley. Thank you!
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Released through an American publisher this is another of the stable of “British Library Crime” releases, this of a novel originally published in 1943 as “The Grinning Pig”. Nap Lombard was the nom de plume of the then married couple of Pamela Hansford Johnson and Gordon Neil Stewart. The tale is set in the early years of the second world war – the months of the “phoney war” and could be described as crime-light – even then a fun escapist read.
The private couple who insist on “helping” the London police with first one – and then another – murder are the Kinghofs. Agnes lives in their temporary flat at Stewart’s Court and her husband, Andrew has been enlisted in the army and might or might not be at home. The not so lucky inspector who has to deal with Agnes is Inspector Eggshell. To complicate matters located much higher in the upper echelons of ”the Met” is an older cousin Lord Whitestone, not so politely referred to as “Pig” - albeit not to his face. 
The various flats of Stewart’s Court are either empty or recently tenanted by a variety of characters and the cellars of the adjoining block have been converted into civilian bomb shelters. So things get a little complicated when a body is discovered hidden there. He turns out to the estranged brother of another elderly tenant, with a weak heart, a Mrs Sibley. A theme of attempts to kill to bring a family inheritance home to a disgruntled other will thus unroll. But in the meantime investigations are complicated as it is possible that some of the tenants might be mixed up in the “Free British Mussolites”, a tiresome organisation, but one that possibly more seriously is acting as cover for German espionage.
So this is a crime investigation romp through London and Warwickshire, with Agnes - lacking more sensible things to do even though there is a war on – getting involved more and more deeply and dangerously, until of course all is resolved and the killer brought to justice. For the original reader it would have been a light escapist read with a mixture of irony, not very likely crime and the vivid depiction of a close childless marriage as the war developed. For the modern reader it gives an added dimension of the minutiae of life then and particularly the class differences and privileges that would be hard to envision otherwise nowadays. But of course it represents the early stages of the war when for many the realities were only just starting to bite. Accepting all these things it is a fun read.
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Nap Lombard was the pseudonym for a husband and wife, Pamela Hansford Johnson and Gordon Neil Stewart. They wrote only two detective novels: Tidy Death and Murder’s a Swine (originally known as The Grinning Pig in the US). The latter was first published in 1943. This is a full-blown GAD (Golden Age of Detection) novel – it even includes a couple of sketches of the apartment block.

Captain & Mrs Kinghof have an apartment in Stewarts Court, London, during the ‘phoney war’ period at the start of WWII. Mrs K has locked herself out and sits in the air-raid shelter, smoking a cigarette with a young air raid warden, when he discovers a long-dead body amidst the sandbags. More murders / attempted murders follow and anonymous letters are received from someone calling themselves “The Pig-Sticker”. Pigs’ heads (real or otherwise) abound – hence the book’s title.  Confusingly, Captain K’s cousin, Lord Whitestone, who is someone important at Scotland Yard, is nicknamed Pig, due to his facial resemblance to the animal.

There’s a strong element of humour in the dialogue, with Mrs K often telling an audience what her aunt, General Sidebotham, used to say. The General was in the Salvation Army and must have lived to a good old age, since she commanded a hundred bowmen at Agincourt and captured Prince Rupert during the English Civil War. The chapters where Captain & Mrs K “treat” Pig to a night out and later, when Pig tries to retaliate, made me snigger.

A few chapters dragged a little until I tuned into the writing style. Once I realised certain passages were meant to be funny, I couldn’t put the book down – and I shall re-read it, now I’m more attuned. Mrs K is undoubtedly a feisty woman and doesn’t hesitate before leaping into danger in a most unadvisable manner!  And no, I didn’t guess whodunnit even though there were probably enough clues for me to spot. I do wish Nap Lombard had written more detective stories.
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this book got archived before I had a chance to read it. I would love a chance to read and review it properly
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The story takes places mainly on a block of apartments in London with an investigating married couple Agnes and Andrew, that immediately bring to mind Christie’s Tommy and Tuppence or Nick and Nora from The Thin Man. Agnes helps discover a dead body in the air raid shelter and then becomes even more involved when one of her neighbors is literally frightened to death and drops dead out of shock. The main suspect is the deceased's nephew, but no one knows what he looks like, and the only assumption that might be made is that he lives on the same block of buildings. 

Set in the period called the “phoney war” during  WWII, well before the air raids started, this is by far the most fascinating thing about this book. As the residents of block 3 Stewarts Court convene around the subject of fire hazards and raids, they also need to root out who amongst them is a cold blooded killer. It is supposed to be funny, jolly and whimsical like a screwball comedy, but I found the tone a little too lackadaisical. 

Another thing I liked about the book are the many literary references to Auden, Shakespeare, G.B. Shaw. Politics though are much less prominent. Although there is a ring of Mussolini sympathizers exposed vis a vis the murder investigation, they don't give off any sense of threat. Hitler's name is bandied about here and there, but the atmosphere is more domestic, with nylon stockings and running cisterns seem to feature more than any news from Europe. And Andrew who is drafted to the army seems to have enough free time to go sleuthing and cavort around the countryside.

Thanks to Netgalley and Poisoned Pen Press for a review copy in exchange for an honest opinion.
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I'm sure I would have enjoyed this- I'm a fan of historical fiction.  However, it somehow migrated into archived not downloaded without my knowing it.  Bummer.
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A screwball mystery with a very creepy murderer! If you enjoy 30's and 40's period mysteries and The Thin Man style films this is one to try. Written with a light hand, with a bizarre denouement, the parts I enjoyed the most were the descriptions of the suspects, in particular the Angela Brazil-style writer of many school novels for girls. Obviously the writer (actually two writers under a pseudonym) were well acquainted with these books. Includes an anti-Semitic sentence and several feminine transformations by way of silk stockings which firmly reminded me of when the book was written.
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I had a lot of fun in reading this brilliant and witty Golden Age mystery. 
It's highly entertaining, gripping and I fell in love with the characters and the style of writing.
Agnes and Andrews are a great couple of detective, they reminded me of Nick&Nora with an intellectual side (first time I read an Auden quote in a mystery).
The plot is well crafted and the mystery full of red herrings and twists. The solution came as a surprise and was satisfying.
The historical background is vivid, a great depiction of life at the beginning of WWII.
I laughed a lot an
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mined couldn't put it down.
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I enjoyed this book and the characters Agnes and Andrew were brilliant and brought a touch of humour and ease to the story, really couldn't put this book down once I started as I wanted to know who dun it.
Twists and turns throughout and I thought it could have been any one of the characters at certain points in the book, as we got towards the end I did have an idea but had to keep reading to see if I was right.
Murder with a touch of humour, fantastic characters and enjoyed the plot
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Nap Lombard is the pseudonym of husband and wife writing team, Pamela Hansford Johnson and Gordon Neil Stewart. I must admit that I'd never heard of him, but I recently read and enjoyed 'An Error of Judgement ' by her, so when I heard this was coming out I was keen to get hold of a copy.

Set during the 'phoney war'speriod of WW2, when air-raids were still thought funny. Agnes and Clem find a dead body in an air-raid shelter, so she and her husband Andrew set about trying to solve the mystery. The story is quite preposterous, but I don't read golden age mysteries for their realism, and I found it fun. Agnes and Andrew reminded me of Tommy and Tuppence, and this was more of an adventure than a tightly plotted mystery. The pair wrote one other mystery which I'd like to read as well.

*Many thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for a review copy in exchange for an honest opinion.*
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