Anthony Trollope’s Rachel Ray & Soho Passport to Crime Series

rachel ray trollope penguin 9780140434101-us-300There is one way to cope with the excessive heat: get up early in the morning.

I’ve heard of morning:  sunrise, dew on the grass, and rabbits and squirrels nibbling on grass blades. I stayed up so late the other night rereading Trollope’s Rachel Ray that I considered staying up to see the dawn.

Well, I didn’t make it, but at any rate I loved Rachel Ray. 

When people talk about Trollope, they concentrate on the six-book Barsetshire series and the six-book Palliser series.  Well, I adore both series, but the standalones don’t get the respect they deserve. So I was pleased last year when Adam Gopnik did mention Rachel Ray in his article, “Trollope Trending,” in The New Yorker.

The fun of Trollope lies in his endless multiplicity: people who like “Rachel Ray” turn to “The Three Clerks,” and fans of “The Three Clerks” ask their friends about “Orley Farm.” Yet, beyond saying that his writing feels like life, it’s hard to say just how he works his magic—and a little digging shows that a sense of Trollope as a slightly guilty pleasure has been around since people started reading him.

rachel ray trollope 9780192818096-us-300You don’t hear much about Rachel Ray.  Published in 1863, it is a charming, utterly absorbing novel about love, business, gossip, good beer vs. bad beer, jealousy, politics, and the clergy.  The editor of the magazine that commissioned it rejected the serial because he was offended by Trollope’s lampooning of religion and the clergy.  Rachel Ray was published as a two-volume novel but not serialized.

We all like Trollope’s smart heroines, and Rachel is one of my favorites.  Because of her kindness and beauty, she attracts Luke Rowan, a handsome, smart young man who has moved in with the Tappitts, owners of the local brewery. He has inherited a partnership in the business, but Mr. Tappitt is trying to shut him out.  Luke has a radical idea: why not make good beer as opposed to cheap bad beer?  Tappitt is in a rage and says Luke will ruin him.

The road is not smooth for Rachel, either: women disapprove of her relationship with Luke.   Miss Puckett, a pious spinster, spreads the gossip that she has seen Rachel and Luke walking together at night. Rachel’s older sister,  Mrs. Prime, a minister’s widow, is furious and tells Mrs. Ray, their mother, another widow, about Rachel’s immorality.

You’ve got to love witty Rachel, who says, “Oh, Dolly, do not speak with that terrible voice, as though the world were coming to an end.”

Eventually Mrs. Prime leaves home and moves in with Miss Puckett because of Rachel’s insistence on attending a ball at the Tappitts and her friendship with Luke.

Anthony Trollope

Anthony Trollope

Rachel is a good friend of the Tappitt sisters, Augusta, Martha, and Cherry, but at the ball Luke dances with her repeatedly, even though she tries to discourage him.   Mrs. Tappitt  is furious because she wants Luke to marry Augusta and starts a campaign to destroy Rachel’s reputation.

And because of their disagreement over the business, Mr. Tappitt threatens Luke with a poker, they part, and he spreads gossip about Luke.  But Luke is hardly diplomatic:  he plans to sue Mr. Tappitt for his interest in the business and start his own brewery in the village if Mr. Tappitt doesn’t give in.  Sheesh!  (Does Luke want to start a microbrewery?)

Mrs. Ray vacillates about Luke.  After Rachel receives a letter from him, Mrs. Ray can’t decide whether it is  proper or not.  “He writes as though he means to have everything quite his own way.”  Rachel thinks it is natural.

Mrs. Ray did not quite know whether it was bad in a man or no. But she mistrusted the letter, not construing it closely so as to discover what might really be its full meaning, but perceiving that the young man took, or intended to take, very much into his own hands; that he demanded that everything should be surrendered to his will and pleasure, without any guarantee on his part that such surrendering should be properly acknowledged. Mrs. Ray was disposed to doubt people and things that were at a distance from her. Some check could be kept over a lover at Baslehurst; or, if perchance the lover had removed himself only to Exeter, with which city Mrs. Ray was personally acquainted, she could have believed in his return. He would not, in that case, have gone utterly beyond her ken. But she could put no confidence in a lover up in London.

It’s fascinating and fun, comedy and drama, though mainly comedy.  This 400-page novel is a good place to begin if you don’t want to start with one of Trollope’s huge tomes.

cara black murer in the marais 51WH1LarVRL._SX331_BO1204203200_-200x300Soho Passport to Crime series.

Soho Press has a new Passport to Crime series.  This small press has reissued the first novels in several popular series.  Who says covers don’t sell?  Has anyone read any of these?

The books are:

—The Last Kashmiri Rose by Barbara Cleverly

—Slow Horses by Mick Herron

—Another Sun by Timothy Williams

—The Dragon Man by Garry Disher

—Crashed by Timothy Hallinan

—Billy Boyle by James R. Benn

—Detective Inspector Huss by Helene Tursten

—Outsider in Amsterdam by Janwillem Van de Wetering

—Zoo Station by David Downing

—Siren of the Waters by Michael Genelin

soho crime Jade-Lady-394x600—Death of an Englishman by Magdalen Nabb

—Random Violence by Jassy Mackenzie

—Blood of the Wicked by Leighton Gage

—The Last Detective by Peter Lovesey

—Jade Lady Burning by Martin Limón

—Murder in the Marais by Cara Black

—Eye for an Eye by Frank Muir

—Converging Parallels by Timothy Williams

—The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis

—Rock, Paper, Tiger by Lisa Brackmann

—Wobble to Death by Peter Lovesey

—Chinatown Beat by Henry Chang

—The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville

—White Sky, Black Ice by Stan Jones

12 thoughts on “Anthony Trollope’s Rachel Ray & Soho Passport to Crime Series

  1. The Trollope sounds great – I *really* must read him! As for the Soho books, I’ve read the Tursten book and I enjoyed it very much (with the usual caveat that these Scandicrime books are getting a bit violent for me!)

      • No! Surely you must have read *some* Scandicrime? I’d recommend the Martin Beck series – they’re my favourite and they were the progenitors. The Wallanders are good, though patchy. I liked the Turnstens I read too – but I’ve drawn the line at some of the more recent titles (Nesbo, Larsson) because of the extreme violence – it’s just gratuitous and always aimed at women, it seems to me.

        • Thanks for the recommendations! I’ll look for the Martin Beck. I’ll avoid the Nesbo and the Larsson, because even the violence in some of those fairly tame American women’s noir books can be too much for me.

  2. As Kat knows we are reading Rachel Ray (three of us) on a listserv at Yahoo: Trollope19thCStudies. Kathy gives a good sense of the book. It is quietly delightful with some serious criticism of the various aspects of life of the characters.

    Yes a good way to live with the heat. I’ll be reading it this morning.

    I notice a new LeCarre film is coming to the theaters — LeCarre is one of the rare crime-thriller mystery writers I can read. I’ve liked all the films I’ve seen made from his books.

    • Ellen, what a coincidence that you’re reading it, too! I dropped out of several Yahoo groups years ago and am told that I don’t exist when I try to resubscribe.:) Didn’t know about the new LeCarre film and can’t wait to see it.

  3. I love Trollope. I haven’t read Rachel Ray, but I have read the Barsetshire, none of the Palliser ones, and I’ve read about ten of the standalones, too. There are so many to look forward to reading!
    From your crime list, I’ve read four: Outsider in Amsterdam, Murder in the Marais, Death of an Englishman, and The Last Detective. I’ve read by some of those authors. Thanks for the list, though, because I can add them to my TBR list.

    • Trollope IS great and I’m always glad there are so many fans! I will add the authors you mention to my list, too, because I want to know who’s good (and that’s a long list).

  4. Chiming in on the mysteries, Kat. Thanks for the list.

    Crashed – A fun series about a professional burglar in LA. I have read many in the series.
    Billy Boyle – A satisfying WWII mystery that takes place in England.
    The Last Detective – I adore Inspector Diamond. A terrific series set in Bath
    Murder in the Marais – Disappointing. As much as I love Paris, I simply could not get engaged with this series. Maybe I will try again.

  5. I have the Helene Tursten books and the David Downing book on my shelves…waiting. I’ve been reading Peter Lovesey for years. It’s always a treat when a new one comes out!

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