"Anon, Sir, Anon" by Rachel Heffington - book review

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Genevieve Langley, paragon of all things mannerly, was late.
-Anon, Sir, Anon

Farnham. "Anon, Sir, Anon"
Hello, everyone. Today I have got a review for you all. Admittedly, I am not a pro with book reviewing like I should wish, but I will do my very best about the business, avoiding any major spoilers (it's a mystery, after all); it is a pretty special book all-round! I had the wonderful privilege of reading an "advanced reader's copy" of Rachel Heffington's newest novel, "Anon, Sir, Anon" - a mystery to be released on the 5th of November, otherwise known as Guy Fawkes' day over yonder in England :). Quite a momentous day, I see, for more reasons than one!

Be sure to check out Rachel's lovely writing blog, The Inkpen Authoress and her other published works as well: "Fly Away Home" and her novella Windy Side of Care in the "Five Glass Slippers Anthology".

Small disclaimer: this is a very subjective, personal review, and not a purposeful reading analyses to help a reader obtain an objective view of the book. 

Anon, Sir, Anon by Rachel Heffington
The 12:55 out of Darlington brought more than Orville Farnham's niece; murder was passenger.
In coming to Whistlecreig, Genevieve Langley expected to find an ailing uncle in need of gentle care. In reality, her charge is a cantankerous Shakespearean actor with a penchant for fencing and an affinity for placing impossible bets.
When a body shows up in a field near Whistlecreig Manor and Vivi is the only one to recognize the victim, she is unceremoniously baptized into the art of crime-solving: a field in which first impressions are seldom lasting and personal interest knocks at the front door.
Set against the russet backdrop of a Northamptonshire fog, Anon, Sir, Anon cuts a cozy path to a chilling crime.
Rowan. "Anon, Sir, Anon"
What I Liked (really, really liked!):
Unlike some stories, "Anon, Sir, Anon" is not just a good little mystery novel pulled out, read and forgotten in the passing list of a bibliophile's reading pile. This mystery is quite special. . . and unique. From the very start of the book, I was pulled into Rachel's sparkling and witty prose, the cozy, almost whimsical mystery plot of English countryside in the 1930s, and two unforgettable main characters, Vivi and Farnham, who held me glued to their wonderful story till the very end. I would say without much hesitation, that "Anon, Sir, Anon" is an amazing novel, and well-worth reading and rereading on any wintery, blankets-and-socks, and hot-cocoa sort of day ;). 

I have read "Fly Away Home" and Rachel's Cinderella-retelling "Windy Side of Care" a while ago, and while I really enjoyed those two stories, I have to say that "Anon, Sir, Anon" beats them all by a mile, in so many different elements,  but especially in strength of plotting, characterization and writing-prose. Here we read a compact, solid story, with deeply three-dimensional characters and a style of writing that is both unique, fun but also more smooth, powerful and natural. This is Heffington's best work yet.

My two favourite things about this book are the witty dialogues that are so spiced with charm, intelligence and humour, and the wonderful friendship of an odd uncle and strong-minded niece. Like some other reviewers have pointed out, I found that the key that makes this novel shine so wonderfully, stands firmly and wonderfully on the relationship of Vivi Langley with her uncle - the Shakespearean actor, Orville Farnham. The two of them are such brilliant, fascinating and down-right fun characters to read about, and simply putting the two of them together in the same room is enough to make me want to read pages of their hilarious and witty dialogues. They are such dears! Some of the early scenes between the two of them, fumbling about observing one another, kept me in a constant state of amusement. Their friendship, an odd-sort-of thing where Farnham is involved, is quite a special, and endearing part of the book, as well as being a very central part of the story. I appreciated that so much!

The whole fish in its crispy, salted jacket stared at her with a glassy eye and Genevieve thought it looked at Whistlecreig and its inhabitants in a spirit of judgement and lemon-juice."I incline to concur," she whispered."To whom are you speaking?" Farnham asked.Genevieve snapped straight. "To my fish, if you must know."  
...though it was, perhaps, only his profound sense of relief at not finding another body dead on his train, the conductor thought that when the plain girl smiled, she looked just a little beautiful.
Anon, Sir, Anon
Vivi is a lovely character - I grew fond of her very quickly, in her honest straightforwardness and eagerness, her determination to care for her uncle and her rather efficient cooking skills :). She has that self-confident streak that tends to get her into trouble, but her good sense balances that; oh, she is quite a flawed character and does some foolish things which I thoroughly disapproved of (HER MOTHER WOULD HAVE TOO!), but all in good cause, so I was willing to forgive her. That is one of the special things about Rachel in writing her characters: she writes them as they are - flawed, and very human with maddening quirks and warts; but through that, there is a nobleness and wonderfulness about her characters - they are learning and striving to follow God, and His grace strengthens them. And so you love them!
Anon, Sir, Anon
And then of course there is Farnham. Oh my! He's a wonderful character. At first, when I was introduced to him, I feared he would fit too easily into the mold of a typical Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poriot, but Rachel pulled him off with splendid originality. His theatrical love of Shakespeare, his "banged" stomach ulcers, his gentlemanly sense of chivalry, all the while living broodingly in that ancient Whistlecreig manor of his -  all combine to make him a rather brilliant, though very clearly an eccentric detective, actor and uncle. 

There are the other characters too, of course, - kindly Dr. Breen, Allan the mysterious butler, care-free Jimmy Fields, the brooding and rather handsome Michael Maynor. . . while upholding the strength of strong main-characters, Rachel did not forget her side characters and suspects; they're all very three-dimensional, intriguing and fascinating. I hope this is not a plot-*Spoiler*- but I was thoroughly suspecting every single character in this mystery sometime somewhere in the story, even for a moment Farnham himself ;). 

Which brings me to the mystery plot - and I won't say much about this because I will inadvertently give something away! But I will say this much; it is very suspenseful, with many suspects and plot-twists - and then you fall headlong into the ending which Rachel ties off with a sheer brilliant, shocking bang, that will leave you a little breathless, shocked, and moved. I am generally not awful fond of mysteries throwing at me dozens of suspects, as it quite addles my wits! This time around, I felt no different than on other occasions in reading an Agatha Christie murder, however, there was a something that was far more sobering and deep than a normal mystery in the way Rachel wrote the details of murder and crime - she gently puts a few thoughts in, a moment or two, a reflection on character and the motives of the heart, a purpose and a sanctity to human life, and a clear picture of the heinous evil of taking another life that made me really appreciate this book, and Rachel's skill as a writer all the more. While not being overtly Christian in genre, Rachel allows her faith to shine in a lovely, understated way - in a quick prayer for help uttered in need, in small Biblical references and in the way the characters view justice, and mercy right and wrong. The very beginning, and the very ending are my personal favourite parts, and I wouldn't mind going back to the book just to re-read that wonderful ending. 

Small Dislikes. . . 
Well, the book is only a little spiced with mild-language - Farnham especially has a bent for using the word "banged" a little too often in my personal opinion. However, that aside, there isn't a whole lot of coarse language or swearing, besides a word here or there. Just a thought for those worried about that.

While romance is not at all the central plot to this story, there is a sort of romantic subplot going on, which includes a few things I felt slightly awkward about - there were basically one or two instances of a guy kissing a girl, and one time, pinning her to a wall which was a little suspenseful and uhm. . . not quite appropriate. Nothing untoward happening, though, and those two scenes are brief; however for that reason, and a few "mature" conversations, I would recommend this book for older teens and adults.

Conclusion:
I really loved "Anon, Sir, Anon". It is a sweet, endearing mystery story, filled with charming characters, a wonderfully heart-pounding plot and a solid Christian worldview as a foundation to the author's creation. I cannot wait for the publication, and look forward to more Vivi and Farnham mysteries in the coming years from Rachel Heffington, Lord willing. How wonderful that would be! So, folks, don't forget to remember Guy Fawkes' day, and keep a watchful lookout for this book's release, come November :).

4 sweet note(s):

  1. Great review! I can't wait to read this one :D

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Sarah :). I am sure you will enjoy it too!

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  2. Gah, Joy! Stop torturing me! *dramatic collapse on a nearby chair* ;)

    Incidentally, I like how you write your reviews, dear. Very informative and all that good stuff. ^_^

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  3. I don't mean to torture you, Annie-darling. This book just happens to be super scrumptious and lovely, you know :). You will love it!

    Aww, but aren't you so sweet. My reviews are something I struggle with, so it is encouraging to me to know that you actually like them and find them helpful. Hurrah!

    Love you, Sweet-Blueberry-Muffin <3

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