Recipe for murder by C. Р. Donnel
The story “Recipe for murder” written by C.P. Donnel is a charmingly entitled text. The title is quite provocative, breathtaking; it gives much food for our thought and fancy, appeals to our imagination and emotions. The word “recipe” implicates equipment, ingredients, amounts, recommendation and cooking skills, but this word is followed by the word “murder”, which may make it a riveting and promising guide to action. We can make a suggestion, that the story may be connected with poisoning, and as poisoning and cooking are women’s privileges, the matter of the text will concern a murderess. The text presents a blend of a detective story, as it deals with murdering, and a story of characters, as it depicts meaningful characters (the typical clever and restrained police inspector and la femme fatale). To my mind, “Recipe for murder” embraces the principal theme of the criminal investigation and the theme of men-women relationship. The rival theme is mastery of murdering, by-themes are the “spouses relationship” and “French cuisine”. The text touches upon eternal concepts of collisions between characters, flirt, men-women relations and love-hate relationship. Compositionally the text falls into 3 logical parts.
In the exposition, the narrator sets the action in the define time: in the middle of the 20th century. The author directly points at the dates (“deceased January 1939/ deceased May 1946’). We can judge about the place by the names of the characters (Madame Chalon, Luchaire, Jean-Marie Villerois, etc), the titles “Madame”, “Monsieur”, the names of dishes and drinks ('Dindonneau Forci aux Marrons', 'Omelette en Surprise a la Napolitaine', Dubonnet etc), the name of the town (Villefranche) and eventually, by the phrase, where the character directly points at her citizenship: “Murderess I may be, Inspector, but also a French woman”. In the second part of the story Madame Chalon narrates about her background and in the third we can meet the charming and promising denouement of the story. The general atmosphere is strain, provocative, gripping and mistrustful. The author introduces to us a place of murdering, which, nevertheless, looks like a dream place: ‘villa, clamorous with flowers”, ‘the cobalt blue of the Mediterranean twinkling outside the tall windows of the salon where they sat’, ‘Through the open window a vagrant whiff of air brought him the scent of her. Or was it the scent of the garden?’ These theatrical descriptions, full of epithets which brighten up the scene of action, make an antithesis with the story and create a quite ambivalent atmosphere. There are two main characters in the story: Madame Chalon, in her forties, a rich widow, who lost her husbands, and Inspector Miron, about 44, from the Paris police. Thus, we can imagine the hunter-prey relationship, but we can’t be sure, which one of them is the hunter. It is a little action story, as the plot is centered round one event – murdering. It is chronological, because all the events are presented in their logical order. Inspector Miron pays a visit to Madame Chalon, who is suspected of murdering her two husbands, to reveal her. During the conversation Madame Chalon confesses to having committed the crime. Charmed by her wisdom and finesse beauty, Inspector invites her to the casino. The climax lies in the episode, where the emotional strain reaches the peak: “I forced them to gorge to bursting, sleep, gorge again; and drink too much wine that they might gorge still more. How could they, at their ages, live – even as long as they did?" A silence like the ticking of a far-off clock. Inspector Miron stood up, so abruptly that she started, whirled. She was paler. "You will come with me to Nice this evening, Madame Chalon." It is followed by the surprising and unpredictable denouement, where the author gives us grounds for suspense: "To the police station, Inspector Miron?" "To the Casino, Madame Chalon. For champagne and music. We shall talk some more." The ending is half-opened and needless to say, the writer gained by ending the story where he does.
The story is narrated from the third person. The story is filtered and reflected through the prism of his mind and eye, we can easily trace where his sympathy lies with the help of his interpretations, suggests, judges. In addition, we plunge in thoughts and reasoning of the inspector and see Madame Chalon through his eyes. It provides our taking into the story, feeling ourselves as the characters. There is one main conflict in the story: between the inspector and Madame Chalon. Major characters are masterly depicted with different methods of presenting. ‘Madame Chalon, at forty, fitted no category of murderers; she was neither Cleopatra nor beldame’ - with the litotes in this sentence the author reflects inspector’s embracement and apprehension. He doesn’t know what to expect, therefore he sizes her up very guardedly. With the help of the allusion the author helps us to form the opinion of this woman. Then he uses the antonomasia and the allusion “A Minerva of a woman” to hint us about her wisdom. Indeed, she is wise, she is cool-blooded, she is prudent. She attacks first to become the master of the situation. It is obvious in her phrases with the epithets: “With a tiny smile now: "You have called about my poisoning of my husbands," she stated flatly. "Madame!" Again he hesitated, nonplused. "Madame, I ..."
"You must already have visited the Prefecture. All Villefranche believes it," she said placidly. In addition to it, her self-confidence is proved in her words about her fellow-countrymen and other inspectors who suspect her in murdering quite depreciatingly. It is well-reflected with the metonymy: “All Villefranche believes it". Her manner to speak (flatly, placidly, her tone, just short of13 caressing) reflects her good breeding and noble background. For the space of the story we come across inspector Miron’s jerky, but careful glances at her: “…whose large, liquid eyes were but a shade lighter than the cobalt blue of the Mediterranean”. " She raised the small glass to her full lips”.
“Madame Chalon went to the window, let her soft profile, the grand line of her bosom be silhouetted against the blue water”. “the bosom swelled with her long breath”.
To my mind, this method of describing her appearance is the perfect way to combine both stepwise made impression of Madame Chalon and inspector Miron’s charming and confusing near this gorgeous woman. She flirts with the inspector in a very refined and skillful way. Her statements with litotes: “I refuse the attitude of the man, not the law." She raised the small glass to her full lips. "I shall not refuse you, Inspector Miron." Her eyes were almost admiring” and descriptions with the epithets just prove it. Returning to inspector’s glances, we can notice that Madame Chalon can definitely sell herself in the most benefit way. There is no denying, she enchanted and defeated the inspector. Speaking about her actions, we can make a conclusion that she is an eccentric and strong-willed person. Her confession of murdering and trying to argue her crime let us make a conclusion, that she counts herself as a sort of a judge or even an avenger. She believes that she has a right to kill somebody disgusting for the common good: “M. Wesser, I learned within a fortnight, was a pig – a pig of insatiable appetites. A crude man, inspector; a belcher,14 a braggart, cheater of the poor, deceiver of the innocent. A gobbler of food, an untidy man of unappetizing habits”. Murderess I may be, Inspector, but also a French woman. So I decided without remorse that Chalon should die, as Wesser died." Her first cue is full of emotionally colored words and epithets to highlight her hatred and irritation towards her ex-husbands. The author used the metaphor and the hidden simile in the statement “M. Wesser was a pig” for the same purpose. The antithesis reflects her confidence in being right. Thus, the description of her husbands, full of metaphors, epithets, climax reflects her erudition and sophistication. These stylistic devices also reflect her effort to acquit herself, because despite being self-confident and self-restrained she worries about inspector’s judgement and decision. Her reaction, described with emotionally colored words, betrays her true feelings: “Inspector Miron stood up, so abruptly that she started, whirled. She was paler”. In spite of everything, I feel sympathy for her wisdom, resolute, contradictory and strong-willed nature. I do not presume to judge her as I’m charmed by her exactly like the inspector. Another reason for it is that she possesses the character traits that I evaluate in every person. This woman-enigma, “a very much woman” definitely is a brilliant character, one of the most impressive and flawless that I’ve ever read about. The second main character, inspector Miron, is “a bachelor of forty-four, not too bad to look at, he has been told.”. We have no direct descriptions of his appearance as the author focuses on the Madame Chalon. Owing to such obscuration of him, we can feel at his place and see the situation inside-out. His occupation type is the “true detective”: smart, reserved, attentive, intent and prudent. Let me prove it with the quotes: “It was neat. Too neat?”
“A dangerous woman. A consumedly dangerous woman”.
– the repetition, rhetorical question and the climax here points out his concentration and professionalism. It also reflects the tensity between the characters. The way he speaks characterizes him as an attentive, unflinching, self-confident man (he said forcefully/ regarded her closely). These traits are also typical for the people of this profession. His vigilance and watchfulness, appropriate for the true detective, are also shown it the way how he resists Madame Chalon’s enticement in the beginning: "You are most flattering". In the scene when Madame Chalon, suspected in the poisoning, offers him vine, the author demonstrates us this character showing overstrain and losing control for a moment with the help of the epithets: His reflex of hesitation lit a dim glow of amusement in her eyes, which her manners prevented from straying to her lips. "Thank you." Annoyed with himself, he spoke forcefully.
"Madame!" Again he hesitated, nonplused. "Madame, I ..."
“He adjusted his composure to an official calm”.
But soon after he comes to himself. It makes the reader think that the inspector is a bit sensitive man, because it’s easy to unsettle him. At the same time, we can say that he is a strong-willed person, as he is able to take control over the situation. The features mentioned before and another example vivified with litotes, hyperbole and metaphor of Madame Chalon’s husbands: “I am not a great catch, but still, not one to be despised." : ‘ "I wish to die." let us make a conclusion, that he is as well-educated and finesse as Madame Chalon. Thus, we can say that they are really match each other and see how the author conveys his idea about men-women relationship. Ellipsis in his statements ("To the Casino,20 Madame Chalon. For champagne and music. We shall talk some more." "Listen to me, Madame. I am a bachelor. Of forty-four. Not too bad to look at, I have been told. I have a sum put away.) not only reflect his excitement, but also characterize him as a man of action. In a nutshell, this strong-willed, clever and manly character conveys the author’s idea about man-woman relationships and helps us look at the situation with his eyes. What makes the text exceptional for me is the intriguing half-open ending, a finesse way of narrating and lively, bright characters. To my mind, all the stylistic devices are chosen splendidly and appropriately. However, if I were the author, I wouldn’t show Madame Chalon’s fear in the moment where she loses control: Inspector Miron stood up, so abruptly that she started, whirled. She was paler. "You will come with me to Nice this evening, Madame Chalon." "To the police station, Inspector Miron?"
As I mentioned before, I sympathize her very much, and to my mind, she is an unconditional winner in this episode. I’d rather she stayed the flawless winner. In the conclusion, I’d say that this story leaves a lasting impression both from the form and the content. In my eye, it is the book to stay with.