Monday, February 14, 2005

And So To Bedlam by Neil Schofield

"And So To Bedlam" by Neil Schofield, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, March/April 2005

This is a humorous tale with "darkly comic situations". To tell the truth it reminded me a little of some of the old Alfred Hitchcock television shows. Except that I enjoyed those.

The story begins with a letter written by Col. Blimp - excuse me, Maj. James "Jimbo" Garside, late of Her Majesty's Armed Forces, to a magazine enquiring about the identity of the author of one of the articles. Soon after a man purporting to be said author, an old mess mate of the Major, one Clive "Loopy" Drinkwater, arrives. Since it has been ages since they last met, the Major, true to stereotype in that he isn't the sharpest crayon in the box, while amazed at the change in his appearance, invites him to bide a while.

The Memsahib, or Mems, as the Major refers to his wife, is less than thrilled at the arrival of this stranger and becomes increasingly less so as the visit stretches out. Old Loopy isn't the sort that she likes her husband to associate with. After all, the inside of his hat is lined with foil.

One day the Major comes home from a lunch with his banker to find the Memsahib layed out on the kitchen floor in pool of her own blood. The situation goes downhill from there to an ending that does have a clever twist. The only problem being that you have to read the entire story to get there.

When you read a humorous story you must expect that the author will take a certain license with regard to logic and reality. One of the best ways to take a ho-hum situation and make it funny is to take that situation to an absurd extreme. The problem with this is that if you do it too often, or get too outrageously absurd, the effect is lost.

That is the basic problem with Mr. Schofield's story: it is too long and too outrageous. I think if he could have cut the tale in half and kept the body count in the low single figures, the story would have been more successful. As it is, I kept asking, "Is this ever going to end?"

In short, too long and not funny enough.