Snake in the Grass (Anthony Gilbert)

  • By Anthony Gilbert
  • First published: UK: Collins, 1954; US: Random, 1954, as Death Won’t Wait

Anthony Boucher was disappointed by the latest A. Gilbert. “One of Gilbert’s duller books,” he wrote in the New York Times. It’s certainly a minor Crook. We’re in a seedy, post-war London of black marketeers and bomb sites; a staid young lawyer meets a pretty girl running away from her husband; the husband turns up dead, and the girl runs still further. One can’t fault the telling; Gilbert’s prose is racy and vivid, and there’s one of the author’s favourite indomitable dotty spinsters: “They say two heads are better than one, but it’s my belief that the person who invented that motto was the man in charge of the guillotine”. But the story itself is bland. The crime is unpremeditated; the summing-up is confusing; and the ‘trick’ is uninspired. (ROT-13: Gur zheqrere jnf frra va n cho ng 19u naq 19u30, ohg frpergyl yrsg orgjrra gura.)


1954 Collins

Con Gardener had no family; his work and his one-room flat filled most of his solitary existence, until one evening a strange girl in the street suddenly asked him for the loan of a pound. Con was attracted to Caro Graves, and puzzled, too; he didn’t see what would become of a girl who had just left her husband after a bitter quarrel, who had nowhere to go, and whose resources totalled one pound. But he was soon to have greater troubles, for he found out that Toby Graves had been murdered about the time that Caro had left him. He looked like becoming an accessory after the fact. Caro vanished – a disappearance aided by a remarkable old spinster, Emmy Crisp, who was not half so mad as she liked people to suppose. Emmy brought Arthur Crook into the case, and from the time that rumbustious investigator started work some of the facts surrounding Graves’s murder began to emerge. Anthony Gilbert has again written a first-rate thriller, full of surprises and humour, and with a problem as baffling as ever.

Contemporary reviews

George W. Bishop in the Daily Telegraph: Starts well when the lonely Con Gardner is accosted in the street by a strange girl who asks him for the loan of a pound. Almost in O’Henry manner the meeting leads him into a round of excitements which includes a very odd murder. A good tale out of the usual rut.

Newcastle Evening Chronicle: A first-rate thriller with a baffling problem.

Kirkus (15th March 1954, 70w)

NY Times (Anthony Boucher, 9th May 1954, 30w): One of Gilbert’s duller books.

Sat R (Sergeant Cuff, 22nd May 1954, 20w)

NY Herald Tribune Bk R (James Sandoe, 23rd May 1954, 190w): Satisfactory—hanky-panky with a steady eye on the main chance, but all managed with disarming skill.

San Francisco Chronicle (30th May 1954, 60w): Here’s fun, also a perfectly sound plot, neat trapping of the murderer, and plenty of momentum in the action.  B plus.

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