By Andrew Garve
First published: UK, Collins, 1950
I’m not sure why this book enjoys such a positive reputation.
Arcturus Publishing reprinted it as a “Crime Classic”, while Barzun and Taylor praised it:
The first book by this author that we read, though not his first. Yet there is about Hilda a freshness suggestive of a new voice. It is, moreover, a solid work, which can be reread at intervals with the greatest pleasure. The detection is adroitly divided, or doubled (as one may want to look at it), so that the business of being on both sides of the hunt does not provide the usual disintegration of suspense. The hero and heroine are likeable, and so is the murderer. Garve writes with economy and colour – another rare combination.
Barzun and Taylor’s judgements are notoriously eccentric; they lauded the Humdrums to the skies, and didn’t like John Dickson Carr – or imagination in detective fiction.
This is drab. Hilda Lambert, odious, middle-class, and Methodist, is gassed in an oven; the police arrest her husband. His (ex-WWII) friend Max Easterbrook sets about clearing him. His detection consists of talking to relations, and finding out what sort of woman she was.
As a mystery, it’s a complete flop. The murderer first appears in Chapter 10 (65% through the book), and Max suspects him at once. Chapter 12 opens with the murderer reflecting on his crime.
Read something else.