Murder in the Bud

Murder in the bud - Phyllis Bottome

"Has Ronnie any right to live - like that?" Hilda demanded fiercely.

"No - not like that," Dr. Silla agreed, "but even his having no 'right' is his own business. He might at any time see his mistake, and alter his way of living. We are at the mercy of our opinion of ourselves - or sometimes be events- or sometimes by others. Criminals are less final than their punishments."

 

I had been looking forward to this book. Phyllis Bottome was the author that allegedly inspired a young Ian Fleming to take up writing, and her book The Lifeline (1946) allegedly gave rise to the character of James Bond. Murder in the Bud is an earlier (1936) work by her, and I was intrigued to find out what her writing was like. Even if there were no discernible similarities or links to Fleming's work.

 

What I found was that Bottome's Murder in the Bud did not make for great reading. It may have been very daring in its time for talking about women having affairs and having sex outside of marriage, but too much of the book dwelt on the psychological explanations that were really far-fetched.

 

However much the psycho-babble may have annoyed me, it was nowhere near as far-fetched as the plot - this book is out of print and I assume that very few readers will rush out to procure a copy, so I have not added spoiler tags (if you are going to read on, you have been warned):

 

Hilda, our MC, is jilted by Ronnie, her ex-lover. Ronnie is a cad, but he is also her family's lodger, and following the break with Hilda, he now is in pursuit of her little sister, Annie (she's about 18 or 19). Upset by all of this, Hilda decides to kill Ronnie.

 
I would have thought this was a bit unreasonable. Surely, Hilda could have just turned him out of the house, but she's afraid of fessing up to her parents about the affair because she thinks it would tarnish her reputation, and that of her family etc.
I have no idea why she makes such a fuss about telling her parents because she tells literally everyone else she meets - even perfect strangers.
 
Anyway, this is all a bit ridiculous, right? The next thing Hilda, a typist, does is to pretend to be one of her clients, a Czech neuroscientist/psychiatrist who is giving a guest lecture in London. Hilda omits to send of a letter declining an invitation to a medical lab and visits the lab herself, dressed as her client Dr. Silla. While she is shown around the lab by a young scientist (who quickly develops a crush on her), Hilda steals two tubes of toxic bacteria.
 
At this point in the book, I was still not convinced that Ronnie, the ex, deserved all this. And there is no thought about her committing several crimes instead of just tossing him out...
 
What made me laugh very hard was when I looked up what she stole - her means of killing Ronnie was not some ordinary poison or something sophisticated that could not be traced back to her. No, it was a Shiga culture.
Yup - she planned to kill him with dysentery. 
 
I don't need to explain how ridiculous this idea is - and that she may have harmed or killed the rest of her family at the same time as it would have been contagious...but there was something hilarious about the idea of killing the shitbag with ... well....erm....yeah.
 
It never happens, tho. The Czech neuroscientist/psychiatrist/mindreader talks her out of it. She also talks the ex-lover out of being a douchebag.
 
The end.
 
This was such a weird book. 
It was as fascinating as it was ... just hilariously bad.
 
So, while there were no links to Fleming's work in this book, I can see how Fleming may have been inspired to roll with his own ridiculous plots.