2015 Reading Challenge – Book #4 – The Five Red Herrings

Book#4 – A book with a colour in the title – The Five Red Herrings by Dorothy L. Sayers
Murder Mystery/Crime
United Kingdom
Film/TV Adaptations: Adapted for television in 1975. Available for viewing on YouTube.

The Five Red Herrings

The plot is deceptively simple – an unpopular town artist is murdered and suspicion falls upon six of his artist peers with whom he had several unpleasant encounters previously. Five of them are red herrings (or distractions) to keep the authorities from finding out who the real murderer is.

The setting is breathtaking. The adjacent towns of Kirkcudbright, Gatehouse of Fleet and Newton-Stewart with quaint cottages, rolling hills, ramshackle castles and rocky creeks which are part of the Galloway countryside in Scotland provide the handsome premises of the story.

In the beginning, we are introduced to a very drunk and arrogant Campbell in a local pub who provokes a fellow painter, leading to a physical brawl. Several other townsfolk who also find Campbell insufferable, bear witness to this disagreeable situation. Among the people present, is also Lord Peter Wimsey, an Englishman and a fairly newer member of the Galloway community.

The next afternoon brings some unfortunate news. Campbell is found dead by the river Minnoch, in the hills near Newton-Stewart. Luckily, a good old-fashioned mystery is right up Lord Peter Wimsey’s alley and he sets off gleefully in his large Daimler Double-Six to assist the local authorities in solving this case.

Despite the straightforward scenario, the book is utterly maddening, infuriating and exhausting to say the least.

Many difficult elements in this book made for a very laborious read. Too many things were happening at once, creating a tangled web of confusion. Train schedules and routes were so excessively mentioned that it became apparent that the author spent too much time at railway stations poring over train timetables rather than creating a lucid plot. Coupled with that were sudden disappearances of five of the six suspects and quite a few bicycles that dragged the story unnecessarily to the point of sheer frustration.

In fact, the author too shares the same opinion when a dialogue is shared between Wimsey and his faithful manservant.

“Bunter,” said Wimsey, “this case resembles the plot of a Wilkie Collins novel, in which everything happens just too late to prevent the story from coming to a premature happy ending.”

The heaviest use of Galloway slang and accent, although very intriguing in the beginning, slowed down the reading process considerably and I found myself reading these dialogues aloud (in what I considered to be a very good Scottish accent) to get the gist of the conversations.

Like an overcooked melange of conflicting textures and flavours, the involvement of too many characters than was crucial to the plot, completely spoiled the broth.  These included Wimsey, seven official investigators, six suspects and their families, friends, housekeeping staff, neighbours and several other witnesses. It seemed that the whole country was involved in this village mystery.

What was absolutely the last straw was when each official would reconstruct the crime each time a small clue was found and endless possibilities and theories were made to be proved. This must have easily happened at least 15 times in the whole novel. In the end, all seven of the officials and Wimsey gathered to tell their own versions of the sequence of events. It was like swimming through a muddy river with nothing in sight.

Sayers mentions in the beginning of the book that every place described is real (even the irksome train schedules). When Wimsey finds out about the murder, he sets off in his car to the scene of the crime, which is some distance away from the towns. His journey is through a beautiful part of the countryside but it was difficult for me to picturise it due to the overly-described sceneries to the point where I felt like a lost tourist. I felt it was necessary for me to be acquainted to some degree with what was being described about. Google came to my rescue and I found a blog post where the blogger had actually followed Wimsey’s journey in person and posted pictures of the same. You can find the blog post here. 

This book took me the LONGEST time to get through and to abandon it held a strong appeal. Several times I had the urge to press delete (since I was reading an ebook version) and start reading another one. However, since I had publicly declared it on Instagram that this would be my next read, I was determined to see this book through even though it literally put me to sleep each time.

This book is NOT an exciting page-turner in my opinion, in spite of the beauty of the locale and the plot. Google also tells me that many Dorothy fans share the same opinion that this wasn’t her best work.

Some of my favourite parts of the novel, including a lovely typically English breakfast description are:

1. It was a marvellous day in late August, and Wimsey’s soul purred within him as he pushed the car along. The road from Kirkcudbright to Newton-Stewart is of a varied loveliness hard to surpass, and with a sky full of bright sun and rolling cloud-banks, hedges filled with flowers, a well-made road, a lively engine and the prospect of a good corpse at the end of it, Lord Peter’s cup of happiness was full. He was a man who loved simple pleasures.

2. ‘It depends on how clever you are,’ replied Wimsey, coolly. ‘You remember Poe’s bit about that in The Purloined Letter. A very stupid murderer doesn’t bother about an alibi at all. A murderer one degree cleverer says, “If I am to escape suspicion I must have a good alibi.” But a murderer who was cleverer still might say to himself, “Everyone will expect the murderer to provide a first-class alibi; therefore, the better my alibi, the more they will suspect me. I will go one better still; I will provide an alibi which is obviously imperfect. Then people will say that surely, if I had been guilty, I should have provided a better alibi. If I were a murderer myself, that is what I should do.” ’

3. After a further interval came a large and steaming tea-pot, a home-baked loaf, a plate of buns, a large pat of butter and two sorts of jam. Finally, the landlady reappeared, escorting the ham and eggs in person.

You can email me at thistlesandwhistles@hotmail.com
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Honey, Go Do-It-Yourself

Photo Credit : www.bywilma.com

Photo Credit : http://www.bywilma.com

I’ve noticed that the more I read magazines for women, the more depressed I feel. Reason: All that cute, gorgeous, chic, elegant, classy and oh, did I mention unaffordable designer stuff that is so rudely mocking at me off the pages. Not to mention, when I go mall-hopping on the weekends, all I do is window shopping. Sigh. No better way to dampen your spirits.

No really, think about it. How many of us can really afford that Dhs15,000 red clutch or a pair of Dhs5,000 nude heels that probably cost the same as feeding a small village in a poor nation?

What about us average Janes and Joes next door? Why should the lowest percentage of population with practically unlimited moolah have all the fun?

To be a little fair, magazines do try to find the best deals in town that successfully emulate designer wear. But their idea of affordable is everything from $100-$500 (Dhs367-Dhs1,835). And that is still 5x over the top.

Luckily, the human race has been endowed with creativity – and lots of it. It’s amazing what you can do with just a pair of scissors, a needle and thread and your imagination. And your old clothes of course.

Do-It-Yourself fashion (or upcycled fashion) is by no means new but has become the rage in recent years, ever since the word ‘recession’ became a part of a lot of people’s vocabularies. An even bigger plus point is that DIY fashion is super kind to our one and only planet. But the best part is, what you make is one-of-a-kind. No one else will be sporting it. Green, pocket friendly and unique, go figure!

So before you throw away those faded jeans from 10 years ago, try turning them into a cute pair of shorts for the summer. Your pocket will thank you for it later.

Speaking of summer, which has just arrived, here are 5 awesome DIY projects I came across that will transform your oldies into Summer 2013 chic and you into the talk of the town (in a good way of course).

1) What happens when lace and denim get together for the summer? Try these two lovely tutorials to transform the back pocket of your denim jeans/shorts into a lace one and a little peek-a-boo lace so cleverly incorporated into your shorts.

2) Flip-flops are must-haves for summers. So why limit yourself to those boring, plasticky ones? Try making these 10 easy-peasy flip-flops at home!

3) Your designer bags might give up on you but totes are a woman’s best friend in the summers. You will regret not trying this no-sew creative tote.

4) A little bohemian never hurt anyone. An amazing project that turns an old tank into a funky fringe top.

5) Who would’ve thought an over-sized, elderly dress can turn into quite the sexy number? And you don’t even need to learn how to use the sewing machine for this paisley summer dress !

Hey, even designer Karl Lagerfeld said, “Never use the word “cheap”. Today everybody can look chic in inexpensive clothes (the rich buy them too). There is good clothing design on every level today. You can be the chicest thing in the world in a T-shirt and jeans — it’s up to you.”

You can email me at thistlesandwhistles@hotmail.com
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Dorri – It comes quite handy…

If you remember a bit of your childhood, you might remember learning how to make arts and crafts at school. A papier-mâché box, a photo frame, a beaded bracelet that your mum saved all these years, or something that you created lovingly and were proud to take home and say “I made this. For you.”

One man’s hobby is another’s masterpiece. Jasmine and Amrita Sihra, sisters and working professionals brought up in Dubai, decided to take their love of arts and crafts and turn it into an inspiring home-based handicrafts business. And that is how dorri was launched last July and their first exhibition was held at the ARTE fair in Times Square Centre in September.

Historically speaking, the word dorri holds a different meaning in different languages. In Greek, dorri is known as a gift of the Gods, in Hindi, the word dorri means a thread. In Farsi, dorri is a sparkling star glittering like a gem. Little wonder that the brand name is a true representation of the heritage and culture of the two Indian sisters; a thread that creates and holds together what is unique and special.

With a variety of items all painstakingly handcrafted by the Sihra sisters such as jewelry, diaries, candles, exquisite woodwork, gift cards, tags, envelopes, wine bottle covers, personalized wedding cards, wedding favors and other unique knick-knacks, dorri truly epitomizes everything that is traditionally Indian.

The Sihra ladies and dorri

Attributing their in-born creativity to their artist mother, the sisters spent a year in their hometown of New Delhi and began working on their dream, supplying their handmade items to popular craft and home decor stores with the help of a cousin. Later when they returned to Dubai and their regular day jobs, they committed themselves to researching the local market. The rising popularity of art fairs and exhibitions and an appreciation for all things unique encouraged the sisters to take a short trip back to Delhi to hunt for raw materials. Back in Dubai and armed with purpose, a luggage full of supplies and great ideas, they eventually launched their own brand with the blessings and support of their parents.

Despite being occupied with their full time jobs, the two are passionately following their love for the art whilst sometimes having to burn the midnight oil to complete a customer’s order or stock before a big exhibition. “It gets pretty tiring to juggle between our day jobs and dorri but when you are passionate about something you can never be too tired.” says Amrita.

Their most popular pieces among the scores of products are their desi (traditionally Indian) doll pencils and bookmarks. When asked where they get the ideas and inspiration for such innovative and individual pieces, Amrita said, “We usually buy all our raw materials without thinking what it will be transformed into. When we sit down to make things, it usually just comes to us.”

As their business is relatively young, the sisters are still learning and testing the market, taking it slow and steady. Ongoing plans include working on supplying certain products to specific stores in the UAE and running campaigns mainly for their jewelry on desado.com. Their dream is to open a dorri boutique appealing to a wide range of shoppers’ tastes and styles.

Their advice to anyone starting a home-based business venture? “When starting a small home-based business you have to start small and take a step at a time. A lot of times people start a business with full force and shut down pretty quickly as well. The main thing is to work on your passion and have something different that isn’t there in the market already.” Amrita smilingly concludes.

So when Confucius said “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.” he really knew what he was talking about.

For more information on dorri products, visit the website, http://www.dorricrafts.wix.com/dorri or their Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/Dorri.arts

For further enquiries, please email Jasmine and Amrita Sihra at dorriarts@gmail.com or give them a buzz at +97150 224 2281

You can email me at thistlesandwhistles@hotmail.com
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