The Herring Seller’s Apprentice – L.C. Tyler

Meet Elise a pushy literary agent, who knows the tripe that her authors writes sells providing she can control them and her 12 and half percent thus.  One of her authors, Ethelred Tressider is in fact three of her authors writing, romance, historical crime set in the time of Richard II and crime novels with the bitter detective Fairfax.

With Ethelred there is a bit more to control, when his ex-wife disappears and all last known traces of her are near Ethelred’s home, Elsie knows that there is more to this than meets the eye and insists on accompanying (or interfering) him on various visits to his past, and also his wife’s.  Astutely Elsie knows something is not right, and it is becoming more a story than any book Ethelred could write.

This is the first in a series of books with a creation of two characters which seem to spark along together despite their differences, Elsie has a love if not passionate need for Chocolate, Ethelred an interest in history but ultimately on the face of it a boring man. Comically they go well together and there is something subtle and funny lines throughout the book when you least expect it. The banter is there, the dislike of each other’s roles but also their fondness starts to creep through at some points as well. They just work together in a budding partnership but with a major difference. Cannot reveal what it is you will have to find that red herring out for yourself!

As a piece of detective fiction, this is excellent. You are going along with the story being told by Ethelred, we are changed in typeface and font to Elsie which is much ironically maligned in the book but works perfectly here as is the obvious irony. Even examples of Ethelred’s own writing have its actual place in the book as a whole, though I am afraid some of that may have passed me by.

The clues are there, the seeds of doubt are sown and the red herrings are a plenty, bringing it all together seems to be Elsie, and the dénouement has a somewhat interesting end which I feel only the next book in the series will satisfy all curiosity. A good piece of detective fiction which to quote from the book itself… “There is an important difference between fiction and real life. Fiction has to be believable”.

There is more I could say about this book, because it was such a joy to read, a fun read and actually was poking fun I felt at books, authors and readers all at once without any of us taking offence. 

In the beginning writing was pure pleasure. It was Elsie who taught me that, with only a little effort, it could just as easily be mindless drudgery.

It was Elsie too who taught me that the royalties on a 300-page book are generally greater than those on a 200-page cook, even if the story could be told better in 200 pages. (‘Add fifty per cent more suspects,’ she advised.)… It was Elsie who helpfully suggested that plots could be endlessly recycled because my readers had the attention span of a gnat with Alzheimer’s. 

I am glad we got to hear Elsie’s voice because to begin with we were only viewing her from Ethelred’s perspective but when she got the chance to talk, amongst eating all that chocolate she was a delight to hear and laugh at especially her dress sense (she has none!)

For the some of the first nine chapters, L.C.Tyler has at the beginning of each chapter made a short statement, one of these being the quote I used at the end of my review above. It is at that point which we get to the narration of Elsie and a turning point in the novel. 

Elsie and Ethelred make a rather unusual partnership and I think for those who like Agatha Raisin then you would enjoy these books just as much. I would never have picked them up if it was not for fellow blogger Jane and I am grateful to have been introduced to them.