End of Chapter (Nicholas Blake)

Rating: 3 out of 5.

As its title suggests, this humdrum tale is set in the literary world; to be precise, in a publishing firm, where the proof copy of a book of memoirs is tampered with by persons or persons unknown, and Millicent Miles, a popular novelist, has her throat cut. While Insp. Wright looks into the physical clues (alibis and keys), Strangeways investigates the pasts of the people concerned, all of whom are everyday people, as this is a workmanlike tale without flights of fancy. The murderer is obvious well before the end, his motive similar to the murderer’s in The Beast Must Die (1938).

P.D. James rewrote the book – including setting, murderer and victim’s profession and relationship, motive, and murder method – as Original Sin.

Contemporary reviews

Times Literary Supplement (Julian Symons, 12th April 1957): In End of Chapter Mr. Nicholas Blake also is at the top of his form [like Ian Fleming with From Russia With Love].  Who has altered the proofs of General Thoresby’s autobiography, to replace certain libellous passages which had been struck out?  Mr. Blake’s detective stories are of classical simplicity in plot and construction, and End of Chapter offers orthodox suspects and clues, and an admirably devised solution.  More than this, the activities of the publishing house of Wenham & Geraldine are lightly but plausibly suggested, and Nigel Strangeways is a sound detective.  The end of the classical detective convention has been announced more than once in recent years, but while Mr. Blake continues to use it with such skill plainly the announcement is premature.

Observer (Maurice Richardson, 14th April 1957): Which of the staff of the rather superior publishing firm has tampered with the General’s memoirs so as to make a whacking libel action a certainty?  And why?  Nigel Strangeways, planted in the office to investigate, chums up with everybody, including the Reader, a maniacal little poet-scholar, guaranteed to empty the bar of the Savile Club any day.  Presently a luscious lady-novelist has her throat cut in mid-autobiography.  Ingenious clue-planting.  Interest sustained.  Nigel is always at his best in a booksy background.

Manchester Guardian (Francis Iles, 3rd May 1957): In End of Chapter Mr. Nicholas Blake returns to his old form with a delightful and not too serious inquiry into libel and death in a publisher’s office; and it is most fitting that he should use a poem as the main clue.  Mr. Blake is, of course, a master of the striking phrase, and the interview with the young blonde, Susan, is as joyous to read as it must have been to write; but surely, surely an author of Mr. Blake’s distinction should not write “oblivious to”.

David Holloway: Mr. Blake returns to the sort of whodunit with a rich background and fruity characters that he does better than anything else.