Laura very kindly lent me a couple of Antonia Forest books I hadn't read: The thuggery affair (one of the stories about the Marlows) and The Thursday kidnapping. These were both reasonably good fun, as Antonia Forest usually is, but not as enjoyable as some of the others because of the appalling snobbery that pervades both stories. This comes up in other Forest novels - the depiction of Marie Dobson in the school novels, for example - but was specially noticeable and unpleasant here.
The Thursday kidnapping is about the relationship between the Ramsays, a family of nice, middle class children in Hampstead, and Kathy, the vulgar, lower-middle class girl who lives next door. Kathy is quite similar to Marie Dobson, in fact - she has all her unpleasant habits, sneaking, stealing, lying and sucking up - and is depicted with a level of snobbery which really gives one pause. Her family are sneered at for being an 'advertisement' family - of course the outward perfection shown by their shiny mod cons home is a sham and they all despise each other. They are even too lazy to walk their dog properly. Kathy is a fantasist and a liar, but is instantly reduced to whining and sycophancy when threatened with punishment. And where the depiction of Marie Dobson in the school stories has the redeeming quality of examining the way we feel guilty for disliking other people, even when we have no reason to like them, the Ramsay children are here given no reason to tolerate Kathy: in fact, the events of the day described essentially vindicate their dislike of her.
The thuggery affair is back in the world of the Marlow family, and describes Peter and Lawrie Marlow and Patrick Merrick's efforts to thwart a gang of drug smugglers. Bits of the plot really defy belief: the gang are despatching their dope via carrier pigeon, for example, and they talk in an embarassing made-up slang. Here Antonia Forest does try to moderate the snobbery that runs through the whole book: she gives the chief thug a long passage in which he explains why he went to the bad. But even this passage is compared very unfavourably with Patrick Merrick's stern (priggish?) morals, and the message is clearly that anyone can afford morals; only the weak succumb to criminality. I'm more in agreement with Bertold Brecht: erst kommt das Fressen, dann kommt die Moral.