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Crime fic with a gleeful giggle, not with graphic gore

Herring Seller's ApprenticeThis wonderfully witty first outing in a series by L.C. Tyler certainly falls into the sub-category of crime fiction now described as ‘cosy’.

For which relief, much thanks.

As someone who really doesn’t want to be reminded of the frailty of our mortal frame by impossible accounts of savage dismemberings, and is less than interested in technophiliac bit by endless byte details of curious gadgetry whistles and bells in the perpetuation and the unravelling of crime, but instead yearns for a focus on the almost unchanging detail of human relationships, and what might drive the more normal among us (as opposed to the psychopathic) to commit crime, this discovery was an utter joy.

For which, once again, I must thank Fleur In Her World, as I loudly and publicly chortled, whinnied, snickered, giggled and less ostentatiously grinned through this clever, playful, good humoured outing. Though set firmly in the modern era – emails do get a mention – our central character/investigators could quite happily have been travelled back to the 50s.

We Tressiders were not the sort of family to leave bodies carelessly strewn around the house. By the time I returned home my father was safely boxed up and ready for disposal in the normal, seemly manner

Ethelred Tressider is a crime writer. Actually, this rather old-fashioned, donnish and endearing individual is 3 writers (with different pen-names) Although he dreamed of being a Booker-winning lit-ficcy type of scribe he happened to write a first novel, featuring a rather plodding but meticulous detective, 2 years away from retirement, which was a fairly runaway success. (sounds a bit familiar?) Twelve novels later his detective has miraculously aged 6 months and acquired an interest in gloomy Norman Church Architecture.

Fairfax is in his late middle age and is much embittered by his lack of promotion and by my inability to write him sex of any kind

Tressider has also started another series, historical crime, (sounds familiar?) set in the time of Richard II, and also (sounds very familiar?) a third, female identity as a doctors-and-nurses romance writer. His no-doubt lantern jawed doctor specialises in oral and maxillofacial surgery.


Ethelred has an opinionated, overweight literary agent with a remarkably bad dress-sense, and an obsessive predilection for low-end chocolate bars. Size and availability matter far more than quality. Elsie Thirkettle is probably the best and most clear sighted chum that Ethelred will ever have. Though she does also keep her beady eyes upon her twelve and a half percent.

It is possible that all agents despise authors….Few agents despise authors quite so openly as Elsie, however…’Authors? Couldn’t fart without an agent to remind them where their arses are.’

When a murder is committed close to Ethelred’s home in more ways than one – not only location, but also, the victim is his dead ex-wife, Ethelred is of course one immediate suspect. But rather in the manner of some of those other ‘cosy writers’ (Ngaio Marsh sprung most to my mind, because of the wit in Tyler’s writing) the obvious is not the only route. Whilst Ethelred is rather keen to uncover what is going on, it is Ethel (who is the author of some of the chapters) who is most keen – principally because she thought Geraldine, the ex-wife, was a total Bitch. For some reason Ethelred is less keen to have Elsie along as his ‘herring-seller’s apprentice’ The title of the book comes from the fact that a crime-writer’s major tool-of-the-trade is the liberal use of the red-herring

There is an important difference between fiction and real life. Fiction has to be believable

Full of sassy, witty, sideways pokes of fun at writers, the writing and publishing industry, writer’s blocks, crime fiction in particular – including several delicious little forays into well-known writer/book pastiches, as Ethelred’s writer’s block has him alarmingly producing rip-offs of other author’s’ style and characters, this wonderfully light touch outing introduces an investigative pair who will no doubt continue their affectionate, exasperating, bickering relationship in the unmasking of other crimes.

Though (whispers) the apprentice, Elsie, on this showing is probably the more efficient investigator of the two; despite what is clearly detecting rivalry as Ethelred strives to keep Elsie out of the investigation.

Tyler himself has also now launched into the first of a second series – set in historical L.C.Tylertimes, A Cruel Necessity (A John Grey Historical Mystery) Look out in a few years’ time for the love lives of dentists to make an outing!

….and I’ve immediately downloaded the next in the adventures of Elsie and Ethelred Ten Little Herrings. I do hope all the others will make it to Kindle!

The Herring Seller’s Apprentice Amazon UK
The Herring Seller’s Apprentice Amazon USA

A light-touch, impeccable, joyous outing. With red-herrings deliciously dangled.