First published: UK, Collins, 1968
People enjoy this sort of thing? I hated it—a downbeat, depressing story in which nasty things happen to the hero until he dies—no doubt an expression of the human condition. I hate C20th novels in which this happens, largely because the protagonist is never given the dignity of a tragic character, and so the ending feels cheap and mean. Theme seems to be how idealism, fantasy and imagination are destroyed by reality; hope and humour conspicuous by their absence, rather like a French film. Plot better done in Rendell’s Face of Trepass (which, unusually for her, had a moderately happy ending). Is this really an advance on the genuine detective story? If this is the glorious new crime novel, give me Sir John Magill’s Last Journey any day!
Tony Scott-Williams had dreams—after all, which of us doesn’t dream sometimes, about winning the pools or inheriting a fortune from an unknown relative? But Tony (born Jones, a name which he had rejected) ran into trouble when he tried to put his dreams into practice. There were three dreams. First, marrying a rich woma, who would give him a free hand with her money; second, winning a fortune at roulette; third, spending the rest of his life in a foreign country in the company of glamorous girls.
To make his dreams come true Tony gambled, forged, and was led finally to murder. Everything he did went slightly wrong, and to his astonishment he found himself in the dock. Yet in the end Tony’s dreams did come true, although the results were far from those he would have chosen.
There is no more distinguished name in the whole field of crime fiction to-day than that of Julian Symons. Here is a novel, brilliantly plotted, cunningly told and often bitterly funny, that will bring pleasure to the legions who have acquired a taste for Mr. Symons’s novels, among which Progress of a Crime and The Man Who Killed Himself will be well remembered.
Times Literary Supplement (12th December 1968):
This time Mr. Symons has well created a foolish young man, unstable, more than a bit of a crook, on the make in a not too dramatic way, and with a keen but limited sense of self-preservation. Weakness and stupidity lead to his being charged for murder he didn’t do; finally the title, though fair enough, is ironic.