Frog in the Throat (1980) by Elizabeth Ferrars

Virginia Freer is staying with her friends, Helen and Andrew Boscott, for a holiday when she finds her estranged husband, Felix, on the doorstep. Given his questionable employment history she wonders why he has he turned up. What’s his game? Conflicting thoughts plague her as she recalls how awful it was living with him, yet a part of her is still glad to see him. You could class him as a small-time crook who lies so frequently that it is a second nature to him. Although the lies are more about personal history and activities, as opposed to nasty or insidious ones about others. He is keen to meet Basil Deering, the poet cousin of Andrew – an interest Virginia distrusts.

All four of them go to a party hosted by Barbara Gabriel, which is celebrating the engagement of Basil to Carleen Mansell. Carleen, a widow, is one half of a sister writing team and currently lives with her sister, Olivia. Yet it is not long after Virginia, Felix and the Boscotts return home that Olivia bursts through their door announcing that she has found her sister murdered, shot in the head. Once more all four head out, yet when they arrive at Carleen and Olivia’s home there is a distinct lack of a corpse, along with Carleen’s handbag and car. Is she still alive and merely faked her own death? Or is Olivia lying? The answer to this is not immediate and, in the meantime, murder strikes once more. Additionally, this second death has grim implications for Virginia’s light-fingered husband and discerning his role in the series of unusual events is high on her priority list.

Overall Thoughts

Most of the reader’s time is spent with Felix and Virginia and it is through them that we find out what is going on and I think on the whole they are an enjoyable duo to follow around. Their separated status is not made a big deal of and is also not overly emotionalised, which I liked, as sometimes in modern crime novels, personal issues can overtake the narrative focus. Felix is an intriguing main character to have, especially since he is the one who does the most active sleuthing and considering of the crimes yet is also the most dubious of the two. Although Virginia intimates at one point in the book how his tendency to lie is actually helpful for detective work:

‘Something made me glance at Felix. As a terrible lair himself, he was always inclined to believe that everyone else he encountered was a liar too. But he could be quite acute in sifting truth from falsehood, recognising the small signs that betrayed invention…’

He works separately from the police and they remain unaware of his activities throughout the story and in one respect you could even say he unintentionally muddies the investigative waters for them. I think it was important that Ferrars didn’t make Felix too criminal a character. He’s more indolent and morally weak, than a nefarious crook.

Another aspect I found quite pleasing was that this is a story which wastes little time in getting down to the mystery and despite it being published in 1980, the book does not have an overtly 70s or 80s milieu. Yet at the same time doesn’t feel particularly anachronistic – a balance which I felt was another merit of the novel.

The initial crime involving Carleen has an interesting timing aspect and the two deaths do not connect easily. It is hard to figure out who would want to commit both crimes. The final solution deals with this effectively, yet for me I think it needed to be better clued. Otherwise the story has a number of positives from the very engaging writing style and characters to a pacey and incident filled plot. Definitely a change from some of my reads this month.

Rating: 4.25/5

14 comments

    • Yes there was definite relief that there was a plot that made sense and characters I actually cared about. It’s my first experience with her work. I have two others by her in my TBR pile, so hopefully the others will be as good or better.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I had been concerned that since it was written in 1980 it might not be a very good read if it was at the end of her career. But thankfully it seemed quite good to me. Definitely no one’s Passenger to Frankfurt!

      Like

  1. Glad you found one you could enjoy!

    I read this one well before I started blogging and keeping any sort of detailed notation of what I read (beyond what I read for school/college). I do remember being disappointed–not so much by the mystery itself, but finding out that it wasn’t one of her Professor Andrew Basnett series. But that was me and my love of academic-related mysteries getting in the way. I probably need to revisit her non-academic series books.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I read this so long ago that I haven’t the faintest memory of what happens. You keep reviewing books that I read long ago, and I end up digging them out instead of getting on with my TBR pile! You are very much to blame…
    I do like Elizabeth Ferrars – I think I felt that she never ascended to the very top heights, but she didn’t fall below a certain level either..

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve only read ‘Murder in Time’ a stand-alone with a tricky little plot and even a bit of ‘locked room ‘ about it. Well worth reading. I just checked on-line and was surprised at the number of books she wrote. Seems to be about 70 or so.

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  4. I’ve tried a few Ferrars recently. Several of them I started and abandoned, but I liked Murder in Time and The Clock That Wouldn’t Stop. And just today I finished my first Virginia and Felix (Death of a Minor Character—not the first in the series, of course, just the first I happened to delve into). I enjoyed Virginia as narrator-protag more than I have most of the Ferrar narrator-protags I’ve encountered, so I’ll definitely read more of these. (And I like the sort of Haila-and-Jeff/Jane-and-Dagobert dynamic between V. and F.)

    Liked by 2 people

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