First published: US, Barnes, 1944
A shaggy dog story: Gilbert seems to be making the plot up as she goes, and you know who the villains are from their first appearance. Made up for by gently satirical depictions of the House of Commons, where she worked as a secretary, and a few good characters, including middle-aged, hyper-efficient secretary Sarah Bennett.
This one doesn’t seem to have been published in the UK, according to Cooper & Pike. It’s available as a Kindle reprint. Good to have a copy, but this really needs proof-reading. Almost every page is riddled with misprints.
San Francisco Chronicle (Anthony Boucher, 6 February 1944): M.P.’s battle for constituent’s pension leads him into spy plot; his doughty secretary and Arthur Crook get him out. The plot on reflection makes little sense, but it swings along rapidly and the satiric sidelights on Parliament and war-time bureaucracy are a joy.
The Saturday Review (5 March 1944): Arthur Crook, bulldog British detective, solves murder of flyer on “compassionate leave” and busts spy ring—M. P.’s secretary assisting. Sarah Bennett and her Parliamentarian boss are enjoyable and Crook is resourceful sleuth , but too much stodgy “humor ” retards action. Rather weighty.
Book Week (Elizabeth Bullock, 13th February 1944, 180w): Anthony Gilbert’s fine sense of humour provides a nice bonus. While his Waugh-like lampooning of the members of Parliament is at once devastating and sympathetic, one wonders if, in these times, it is not questionable taste to go as far as he does. It is well to remember—during your enjoyment—that the House of Commons must have taken its business considerably more serious than he allows, or the war would not now be where it is.
2 thoughts on “A Spy for Mr. Crook (Anthony Gilbert)”
Interesting to have an insider’s view of the House of Commons. I like the contrast in opinions on the satirical elements of the book in your selection of contemporary reviews. Elizabeth Bullock sounds like she rather enjoyed it but feels duty-bound to gently disapprove.