From London Far (Michael Innes)

By Michael Innes

First published: UK, Gollancz, 1946; US, Dodd, Mead, 1946, as The Unsuspected Chasm


 My review

Innes - From London Fra.JPG
Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC

Among Innes’s large and uneven output, this most gleeful and exuberant thriller stands out as one of his clearest triumphs. It is the diverting story of an innocent (middle-aged scholar named Meredith) abroad, plunged into murder (one of which he commits, the other he instigates) and crime (the doings of the International Society for the Diffusion of Cultural Objects), against a picturesque backdrop of warehouses, ruined castles and Highland moors, and a lunatic nouveau riche connoisseur’s American mansion. Dialogue is splendid, and the humour makes this Innes’s funniest book. Not only mild academic jests, but superb farce, largely provided by the pick of the gallery of certifiable lunatics: an endearing psychiatrist who is as mad as his patients (whom he believes have abducted him by furniture van to be instructed in sexology), who begins by believing that the furniture vans that keep following him are psychosexual hallucinations; to keep himself sane, he refuses to believe in any of the adventures that ensue when he is kidnapped. Now there’s an idea for modern drama!


Contemporary reviews

John O’London’s Weekly (Evelyn Banks, 15th November 1946):

FUN AND THRILLS

After a long run of average crime novels, a new Michael Innes story is as welcome as a rebate in income tax.  Mr. Innes has everything.  A pretty turn of inventiveness, a pleasing, if somewhat academic, humour, and the ability to write consistently well.  From London Far, his new “thriller” (the quotation marks are his publisher’s), is a joyous riot of bubbling fun.  The hero is a middle-aged professor, happily engaged in textual criticism.  While absent-mindedly quoting Samuel Johnson’s London, A Poem in a tobacconist’s shop, he is suddenly plunged into the midst of a fine band of crooks engaged in gathering together all the world’s masterpieces of art and sculpture.  His ensuing adventures take him to a ruined castle on a Scottish island, and to the incredible lakeside cottage of an American millionaire.  Also involved are a psychiatrist pursued by furniture vans, a couple of eccentric old ladies, Flying Foxes, and two charming bloodhounds.  All this, and Mr. Innes too.

 

New Statesman (Ralph Partridge, 21st December 1946):

From London Far figures appropriately next to Here Comes a Chopper; but there is a thread of motive running through Michael Innes’s wildest fantasy that puts him in a different category to Miss Mitchell.  The casual intrusion of a literary don into a den of thieves starts the ball rolling.  As there is a plot I say no more.  But the book is called a thriller, and anyone who has read The Daffodil Affair knows what liberties Michael Innes allows himself under that heading.