Saturday, 15 November 2014

Murder In The Maze - Vintage Passe Partout Tape Saves The Day...

Picture it: an English country house called Whistlefield in the 1920s. Young Vera Forrest and her friend, Howard Torrance, are guests there. The house owner is one Roger Shandon, a not very pleasant fellow. His twin brother, Neville, is also a little on the beastly side (old bean). The brothers decide to spend an afternoon in the two centred hedge maze on the estate. It's an elaborate maze, and they feel they're bound to get the peace they require in the two centres - one brother opts for Helen's Bower, the other The Pool Of Narcissus.

Vera and Howard arrive at the maze unaware that anybody else is around, and split up - each intent on beating the other to one of the centres. Then Vera hears disturbing sounds - cries of pain, a strange rattling noise, a thud... something terrible is happening close at hand, but she can't see what. And she's lost in the maze and can't find the way out. Then Howard cries "MURDER!" - he's reached one of the centres and has found one of the Shandon brothers dead... and it seems the killer is still in the maze... Vera hears somebody walking softly alongside the other side of the hedge by which she is standing - and it's not Howard... it's the murderer! EEEKKKK!!!!!

Just then, there was a dull thud as the spine and back cover fell off, endangering several pages... my brilliant JJ Connington 1920s murder mystery book, a first edition, was falling apart at a crucial moment in the plot...

All right, all right, I know I should get a Kindle or something, but I love the feel of a real book in my hands, and Murder In The Maze is right up my alley as a 1920s country house murder mystery never fails me to grip me. I was addicted to Cluedo as a kid.

Now, the book was falling apart, reading further would not be the pleasant experience I was hoping for - more a continuing struggle to assemble the pages in order as the departure of the spine and back of the book had put the pages in peril of likewise detaching themselves.

I wondered if I could stick the blasted thing up with parcel tape? Now, I'm a great lover of books, I appreciate them and respect them, and it seemed a shame to do that with a first edition - it would look so ugly. And I wasn't convinced it would hold.

Then I had a brainwave. I cut several strips of Samuel Jones vintage passe partout tape from a reel, wetted them thoroughly, and repaired the book with them. I had no great hopes that it would work - could passe partout support such a venture? You must remember that the spine and the back of the book had become completely detached.

After I had completed the operation, I was impressed at the effect the handsome leather-like paper tape had on the look of the book. I left it overnight so that the special passe partout "cement" could set and the next day was able to continue reading.

I have now finished the book, the murderer has been unmasked and the passe partout still holds firm.

A great job - and it just shows how versatile passe partout tape can be.

I'm well pleased.

But having finished the book and experienced its chilling climax in the Whistlefield Maze, I don't think I'll be venturing into Hampton Court or Hatfield again in a hurry...