Book Notes – Crime Fiction

I’ve recently read the following books:

Tiger In the Smoke by Margarey Allingham (first published 1952).  Jack Havoc is on the loose in post-war London, resulting in murder, mystery and mayhem.  I was immediately struck by the imagery – the fog pervades everything. At times I wished there was a bit less description but at other times I was completely caught up in the story and could feel the tension and fear in the characters. I expected Inspector Campion to take the lead but he only appears as a minor character. I thought the attitude to women was a bit condescending, and Meg, the young widow, didn’t really engage my sympathy.  However, Canon Avril is one of the best characters (along with Tiddy Doll), and forms a complete contrast with Havoc – good/evil.  His view of anger is that it is “the alcohol of the body”, which “deadens the perceptions.” And l liked his thoughts on the soul: “When I was a child I thought of it as a little ghostly bean, kidney shaped, I don’t know why. Now I think of it as the man I am with when I’m alone.”  After a slow start I read with increasing anticipation to find out what happened next.

Detection Unlimited by Georgette Heyer. Published in 1953 a year after Tiger In the Smoke this is a much lighter novel. As the title implies there are many suspects for the murder of Sampson Warrenby, found dead under a tree in his garden with a bullet through his brain and many people all too ready to tell Inspector Hemingway who did it. I was immediately drawn into a world gone by in a small village, with characters such as Mrs Midgeholme with her pack of Pekes, whose names all begin with ‘U’, Mr Drybeck, the old-fashioned solicitor, Warrenby’s long-suffering niece, Mavis, the country squire and his lady-wife, the maiden aunt Miss Patterdale, and the village bobby on his bicycle. A spot of blackmail, and a  number of twists and turns in the plot kept me interested to the end.

I thought A Christmas Visitor by Anne Perry was a little disappointing. The only Christmas connection I could see is that it is set just before Christmas. The good thing about this book is that it is very short (133 pages). The bad thing is that it is rather tedious. It began well set sometime in the 19th century with Henry Rathbone’s visit to the Dreghorn family near Ullswater in the Lake District for Christmas.  Judah, a judge in the local court at Penrith, had been found drowned in a stream, having gone out late at night. It was assumed at first that it was an accident. Antonia, Judah’s widow tells Henry of the death of her husband and then one by one Judah’s brothers, Benjamin, Ephraim and Naomi, his sister-in-law arrive and are met by Henry and he relates the account of Judah’s death to each one and I started to get tired of the repetition. The chief suspect is Ashton Gower, who has just been released from prison, sentenced by Judah to twelve years for forgery. Gower claims to be the rightful owner of the Dreghorns’ house. Not the most riveting of mysteries.

Looking Ahead to The Tiger In the Smoke

I’ve just realised that Cornflower Book Group’s next book is The Tiger In The Smoke  by Margery Allingham – to be discussed on Saturday 13 December and I haven’t even started it. I’d better get going. The good news is that it’s only 224 pages, but the bad news is that’s in a small font size. An interesting note at the start is:

Only the most pleasant characters in this book are portraits of living people and the events here unfortunately never took place.