Death Has Deep Roots (Michael Gilbert)

  • By Michael Gilbert
  • First published: UK: Hodder & Stoughton, 1951; US: Harper, 1951

A classic courtroom drama.  Victoria Lamartine is on trial for the murder of her supposed lover, Major Thoseby.  The police and prosecution think it a “sealed box” mystery, for there are only five suspects: three hotel staff-members and two guests, so one of them must have done it—and Mlle. Lamartine is the obvious suspect.  Investigation by the defence reveals that the crime is the fruit of a green bay tree whose “deep roots” extend into wartime France, to the Resistance and attempts to defeat the Nazis.  Thriller elements proliferate, but the whole hangs together very neatly, almost as neatly, in fact, as the true solution.


A Catalogue of Crime (Barzun & Taylor, 1989): There have been many mystery tales based upon the activities of the French Resistance; few have been good, and fewer stand up to current rereading.  This is one of the very bets.  Approximately alternate chapters deal with scenes at the trial of a young woman accused of the murder of the putative father of her (deceased) child; in between we have the activities of agents employed by her solicitors to uncover the facts.  Scene of the crime is a small London hotel.  Counsel on both sides are excellently portrayed.  A gripping tale: one of the author’s triumphs.