Book Review: Picture Miss Seeton by Heron Carvic

Posted May 6, 2016 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 1 Comment

Book Review: Picture Miss Seeton by Heron Carvic

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Picture Miss Seeton by Heron Carvic
Published by Farrago on May 5, 2016
Pages: 176
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley

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First in the Heron Carvic’s Miss Seeton too-funny mystery series sharing adventures between London and a village in Kent.

This ARC was sent to me by NetGalley and Farrago for an honest review.

My Take

If you like the homey qualities of Agatha Christie, you will very much enjoy Carvic’s Miss Seeton! She’s a no-nonsense, logical lady who firmly believes in manners. Much to some bad boys’ chagrin! She’s also naive in believing that everyone will behave the same way, which turns Picture Miss Seeton into a comedy of logic versus gossip with the villagers seeing Miss Seeton’s logical approach to life as eccentric. One of those logical moves — that one doesn’t expect from a “little old lady” — is Miss Seeton taking up yoga.

It’s that insistence on manners that starts the action off and her reaction to it all that brings out Delphick’s protective instincts. He’s quite pleased that the murderer doesn’t know of Miss Seeton’s plans for the morrow, and that she’ll be right out the way of any danger.

Oh, well.

Superintendent Delphick is quick to take advantage of Miss Seeton’s naiveté. The surprising part is that one wouldn’t expect the 1960s coppers being all that “psychic” themselves! Or that quick to accept. The whole story was rather like that. A sense of trust and caring that we, in general, lack today.

It’s a soap opera-like approach to drugs and crime — the sort that brings to mind Reefer Madness, there are police who use their heads, there are some villagers who are practical and kindly while others take much too much joy in embellishing their own “hopes” into a mish-mash of entangled gossip with all sorts of nonsensical ideas thrown into the ether about the “truth” behind Miss Seeton and her activities. The two Nuts are a hoot even if I do want to smash ’em left, right, and center. I do love what Miss Seeton does to them in the post office!

Carvic does have his fun with the English attitude toward anyone not English. Ooh, ar, them furriners don’t half know how to behave…bein’ foreign-like and all. Miss Seeton is quite the levelheaded lady, and never more so than when she first meets the Oracle. Poor Ranger has no idea what he’s in for, but she is a nice bit of relief for the cops.

The atmosphere feel like the 1900s, but it must be set in the 1960s somewhere. Or maybe not. There is one mention of a computer, so I haven’t a clue. There’s lots of talk of having a car sent and there is a regular bus route that goes through the village, so it’s sufficiently confusing as to when the story takes place.

One must appreciate the reverend. His heart is in the right place. If only he didn’t leap to conclusions so quickly! Poor DS Bob comes in for quite a bit of quiet teasing. Then Anne and her aborted seductions, poor girl, lol. The chasing in which Nigel and Sir George engage. The rabbitin’, *laughing*.

I do love Lady Colvedon, Sir George, and Nigel. They’re truly decent people with a wicked sense of humor who know what’s going on around them.

“Wife always first suspect. Hire someone. Don’t let ’em overcharge.”

All the juggling about as the villagers try to figure out a welcoming gift for Miss Seeton was too funny. The hen house war yields names and great adventure for Sir George and Nigel as they hare off to battle in her ladyship’s MG. The kidnapping that goes in reverse and ends for young Ginger when Miss Seeton gets indignant at the hearing over her crushed hat.

That Morton was a real piece of work. I did get confused by a statement that Mrs. Venning had been socially active until a year ago when earlier (and later) Carvic makes it sound as though Mrs. Venning has been a hermit for years.

Oh lord, I do enjoy the occasional lapses into parody…Miss Seeton’s comment about laying her own has Nigel envisioning “Miss Seeton, in that hat, enthroned on an outsized nesting box” while later Delphick gets this image of himself cleaning up the drug smuggling ring with a boiling teakettle.

Miss Seeton did have a tricky way of getting out of that kidnapping. Oh, and you can just hear some idjit criminal using that same damned excuse…!! Arghhhh! I did love the judge’s reaction when Miss Seeton had her say in court, lol.

I can’t really blame Nigel for taking the piss with Delphick:

“‘Sarcasm and rudeness aren’t exactly helpful.’

“I quite agree,’ retorted Nigel, ‘but I don’t see why it should be one-way traffic.'”

That comment Miss Seeton makes about the “gardener” who wrote How Does Your Garden Grow? cracked me up.

He explains her to Bob as “everybody’s conscience, . . . Humanity’s backbone . . . [going] to the stake for you again and again; . . . as a matter of principle”.

A thought that has Bob wondering about emigrating to Canada where the Mounties only ever get their “man”. Certainly Brinton is moaning about how quiet the area used to be before she showed with her brolly in action.

ROFLMAO, lucky Delphick is about to get his dream come true…Lebel trussed up and packaged for him. You’ll never guess how it comes about, ROFL.

Picture Miss Seeton was an absolute treat. An author who actually knew how to write and did so with intelligence.

The Story

It all starts with a murder in London and a poke with a brolly, which brings Miss Seeton to the attention of both Scotland Yard and the bad guys. Her frustration and Delphick’s noting that she’s a drawing teacher begins the connection between Miss Seeton and Delphick.

With that comes protective surveillance, newspaper publicity, and the Nuts’ obsession with “creativity” combined with a nap and the pot of jam from Mrs. and Miss Vennings sends the Nuts off with gossip that alternates between drug running, vendettas, and lord knows what else.

And Miss Seeton heads down to Sweetbriars blissfully unaware of the press or the gossip shortly to be swirling about her. She’ll be drawn deeper into the mix when she listens to Nigel as he sweats out his problem. The one that brings Miss Seeton deeper into the mix, tying the threads into one great clump.

The Characters

Miss Emily Seeton is a drawing instructor for a private school in London and never seen without her umbrella. Her godmother and a cousin twice removed, Mrs. Flora Bannet, has just died and left Miss Seeton her cottage, Sweetbriars.

Scotland Yard
Superintendent Delphick, a.k.a., the Oracle, and Detective Sergeant Bob Ranger are both with Scotland Yard. I like them both for their warm hearts: Delphick is level-headed and quick while Bob is more inclined to a Boy Scout approach. Harry is running some prints. Chief Superintendent Gosslin is Delphick’s boss.

Plummergen, Kent is…
…where Miss Seeton’s inheritance lies. Martha Bloomer had been Mrs. Bannet’s cleaning lady for years (“Flora always said Martha must have been born in the middle of a conversation”) and has stayed on to help Miss Seeton (she also cleans for Lady Colvedon). She’s rather known for her “Grand Slams”. Her husband, Stan, did the garden and the chickens in a barter arrangement.

Major-General Sir George Colveden, the local justice of the peace, and Meg, Lady Colvedon, live at Rytham Hall with their son, Nigel, who is studying agriculture. An older daughter is married and lives in London.

Mrs. Sonia Vennings is a widow who turned to writing and has earned enough off her children’s books about Jack the Rabbit, his friend Lucy, and his enemy Wally Weasel to move to the Meadows with her poor, bored daughter, Angela, hostage to her mother’s past. David is the husband who died. Mrs. Fratters is their housekeeper and had been Sonia’s nurse when she was a child.

The Reverend Arthur Treeves is the bachelor vicar who has lost his faith. And a more woolly-headed one with a profound dislike for social chit-chat I can’t imagine. His sister, Molly Treeves, is much more levelheaded and intelligent — she keeps her brother up-to-date.

Dr. Knight runs the local surgery and a small nursing care home with the help of his daughter Anne, who has caught DS Ranger’s eye. You’ll like the doctor…a wicked sense of humor: “Bob following: a leviathan in tow to a tiny tug”.

Erica “Eric” Nuttel and Norah “Bunny” Blaine have shared a house, Lilikot (ahem, a.k.a., the Nut House), for eleven years in the center of the village opposite the garage”. I’m sure they’ll never move unless the village can unite in tossing them across the county. They’re much too interested in whatever is happening around them and not too concerned with truth. In fact, embroidering is so much more fun, and they spread their inventions about with glee. Most of the village refers to them together as the “Nuts” and individually as “Nutcrackers” and “Hot Cross Bun” respectively.

PC Potter is the village constable with orders to keep an eye on Miss Seeton. His comments to that effect only seem to fuel the village gossip in the wrong direction. Jack Crabbe runs the local garage and petrol station and hires himself out to drive people about. Mrs. Walsted runs the local draper’s with the help of her daughter, Margery. Mrs. Goffer and Mrs. Spice are encountered in the grocer’s. Doris is the waitress at The George and Dragon. Mr. Stillman runs the post office.

Chief Detective Inspector Chris Brinton of the Ashford Criminal Investigation Department gets involved when the action moves into Kent…with Miss Seeton. Hubert Trefold Morton, solicitor, alderman, and mayor-expectant of Brettenden is Miss Seeton’s solicitor. An annoyingly loud man with his fingers in many, many pies. Some of his previous clients include Mrs. Cummingdale with the angry nephew, Ernest Foremason, Miss Worlingham, and Miss Hant. His housekeeper doesn’t think much of him, either.

The Singing Swan is a youth club on the other side of Brettenden. Art Grant, Micky Hughes, Sue Frith, Diana Dean, James Trugg, and John Hart are habitués.

César Lebel is the young “foreigner” who starts it all with the murder of the young prostitute, Marie Prévost Hickson. Ginger Nut is the close-mouthed kidnapper.

Mabel and Edward Walters came to Miss Seeton’s aid in London. Mrs. Perrsons is a nosy neighbor in London.

The Cover and Title

It’s a pastel rainbow reflecting the light humor of the story. A yellow-on-yellow sky against which a melon-colored village silhouette stands out. The melon degrades down to a pale peach at the bottom, and in between, is a tall dark purple silhouette of Miss Seeton unfurling her Battlin’ Brolly, pointing it at Lady Colveden’s used and abused MG with a pretty blue graphic of Sweetbriars tucked in the title.

The title is part of our introduction to Miss Seeton’s abilities to Picture Miss Seeton, as she plumbs the depths of her artistic insight into the people around her.

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