Sunday, August 7, 2011

Death Comes To Perigord 1

“You know,” I said as we shook hands, “it’s deuced hard to believe this island of yours is real.”

         Le Marinel, as if to consider this cocked his head to one side, like a thoughtful bird this time.  I had been but one week on the island, having come to look after the practice of a doctor friend, an old fellow student, who needed a change.  The duty so far had been almost a sinecure, although I was, in fact, then meeting the avocat to report on a patient about whose condition he was anxious.

        “You mean,” he said at length, “that it looks the sort of place where nothing happens.”

          This time the side-long glance he gave me was more than ever bird-like.

        “That’s true;  it does look like that; but it’s not what I meant.  What I meant was that for an island in the Channel less than ninety miles from England it has too many incredible differences; it looks in fact almost Oriental.”

        The avocat seemed mystified.

        “Oriental?” he repeated, with a rising inflection.

        “More like a bit of Tunis or Algiers,” I affirmed.

 “Why look, for instance, at this very road, so long and narrow, stretching between those high blank walls, with invisible houses and hidden people behind them, I suppose.  And look at those tall palm trees which seem to be peering over the walls as if stretching their necks, watching for something to happen in this deserted alley.  Look at those shadows too, sharply cut as if by a knife in this brilliant white, un-English sunlight; and look at the colour, is that not Eastern?”

       I indicated the end of the tunnel-like Rue Galette along which we were now walking, for at the far end, framed like a picture by the tall shadowed, one caught a glimpse of an incredibly blue sea, on the horizon of which another island was just discernible, pale as an opal, and ethereal as a mirage of the desert.

From John Ferguson, Death Comes To Perigord (Chapter I:  Night Visit).  London and Glasgow, William Collins and Sons, Co., Ltd., 1931.

All photos depict island of Guernsey.


  1. You were right. That was interesting :) I also really liked how the pictures were used to break up the text.

  2. Thank you, Rachel. I'm reading this book slowly, not because it's difficult, but because I'm: a) enjoying taking it at that pace and drinking in the words and details; and b) semi-stressed by world events. The "Clameur de Haro" that precipitates some of the action is an ancient rite of Normandy that exists in local law there even today. I think I would like to visit Guernsey, Jersey and the other Channel Islands. I have a couple of additional installments in the works. Searching for the "right" picture is a lot of fun. Often an image doesn't literally fit as an illustration, but really suits the mood. Interestingly, the book wasn't a great success when it was published because it came out at a time when a lot of writers were experimenting with detective and mystery stories and it kind of got lost in the mix, eventually to be re-discovered and appreciated. Curtis