Loved it, as I figured I would: The Department of Sensitive Crimes, by Alexander McCall Smith

June 9, 2019 at 5:55 pm (Book review, books, Mystery fiction, The British police procedural)

  Scandi Blanc. Thus has Alexander McCall Smith named his new series. This is how he describes his latest undertaking in The Scotsman:

“I’ve started a new series set in Sweden. I call it ‘Scandi blanc’ as opposed to Scandi noir.

“My central character is a Swedish detective called Ulf Varg – Ulf means ‘wolf’ in Danish and Varg means ‘wolf’ in Swedish so he’s Wolf Wolf.

“He lives in Malmo and works in this department which deals with unusual crimes.

“He has a dog called Marten, and he’s hearing impaired. He’s the only dog in Sweden who can lip-read, but only in Swedish.

“He also has various sidekicks, but all his cases are really peculiar.

“The whole thing is just having great fun. My books never involve any serious crimes. Nobody is ever killed in any of my books, so there’s no murder there.

“There is a case of lycanthropy, though – somebody who is possibly a werewolf. It’s good Scandinavian stuff and I’ve had tremendous fun.

There is also a case of multiple missing persons. But is it actually a case if one of those reported missing never actually existed in the first place?

One of the reasons I love police procedurals is that you have a team of investigators. The individuals who make up that team are often very interesting in and of themselves. And there interactions can also be quite memorable.

From the jacket copy for The Department of Sensitive Crimes:

Ulf “the Wolf” Varg, the top dog, thoughtful and diligent; Anna Bengstdotter, who’s in love with Varg’s car (and possibly Varg too); Carl Holgersson, who likes nothing ,ore than filling out paperwork; and Erik Nykvist, who is deeply committed to fly fishing.

Throw in a local beat cop who is amiable but talks nonstop, and you have an entirely winning (if, at times, exasperating) ensemble.

Alexander McCall Smith is also great on the subject of dogs. Martin (variable spelling ‘Marten’) is an entirely lovable canine. Freddy de la Haye is my all time favorite fictional dog.

I admit I’ve been made slightly anxious by the appearance of this new series. I see there’s a new Precious Ramotswe novel in the offing, but what about the Isabel Dalhousie series? I love both and don’t want to see either of them supplanted. But McCall Smith is such a prolific writer – just have a look at his Wikipedia entry and you can see for yourself. I probably don’t need to worry.

I’m an Alexander McCall Smith junkie; I don’t deny it. I still have the fondest memory of his appearance at the library several years ago.

Long may he write!

Alexander McCall Smith

 

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Rarely has the Australian outback been brought so vividly to life….The Lost Man, by Jane Harper

June 6, 2019 at 12:50 pm (Book review, books, Mystery fiction)

  Jane Harper is a relatively new author; The Lost Man is her third book. She’s been getting consistently favorable reviews, which is why I decided to try this one.

The Bright brothers are  cattle ranchers in Queensland, Australia. Their land is flat, vast, sun baked. There are three brothers: Nathan, Cameron, and Bub. The novel’s prologue reveals that a man has been found dead on a lonely stretch of land that’s well known for having a single gravestone on it.

The name of the man buried beneath had long since vanished, and the landmark was known to locals–all sixty-five of them, plus one hundred thousand head of cattle–simply as the stockman’s grave. That piece of land had never been a cemetery; the stockman had  been put into  the ground where he had died, and in more than a century, no one had joined him.

This is one of the most striking openings I’ve encountered in a novel in a long while. And the rest of the book more than lives up to the promise offered up in this prologue.

I was mesmerized by The Lost Man. I hated to finish it. The ending was just as dramatic as  the beginning; I was held captive by every word in between, as well. Oh, for more reading experiences like this!

Highly recommended, obviously.

I plan to go back and read Jane Harper’s first Two novels, The Dry and Force of Nature.

Jane Harper

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Two pleasing procedurals

June 5, 2019 at 8:17 pm (Book review, books, Mystery fiction, The British police procedural)

Having fallen hopelessly behind in the reviewing process – and watching as titles pile up in my home office – I’ve decided to take a stab at remedying the situation.

So, to begin:

Both Jo Bannister and Peter Turnbull are, in my view at least, underappreciated writers, at least on this side side of the Atlantic. Both have a large and solid body of work, chiefly in the subgenre of the police procedural. Jo Bannister has authored several series; the one featuring Constable Hazel Best is her latest. Silent Footsteps is the most recent. It takes place, as do its predecessors, in the fictional region of Norbold.

Bannister has a wry sense of humor that often manifests itself in dialog. In this scene, Hazel is seconding Sergeant Murchison as he attempts to interview a possible witnesses to a crime. They belong to a gang called the Canal Crew. Murchison dives right in with a blunt opener:

“So what have you done with Trucker Watts?”
One of the hairy young men appeared to be senior to the other. ‘We ‘aven’t got ‘im. We never ‘ad ‘im. We ‘aven’t seen ‘im.”
There was something almost Shakespearean about it, Hazel thought. But Sergeant Murchison was harder to impress. ‘You saw him this morning, panhandling outside the off-license in Arkwright Street.’
Yes, they admitted, they had. They’d seen him off–or, to be more accurate, they’d seen him leave.They hadn’t seen him since.
‘Is that the truth?’
‘On my mother’s grave.’
Murchison frowned. ‘Your mother’s still alive, Billy Barnes.’
Yeah–but she’s already bought a plot down the Municipal. Cost her an arm and a leg, it did.’

Hazel has a close friendship with Gabriel Ash and talks to him frequently about the cases she’s working on. The two have a interesting back story. To be thoroughly filled in on that, it’s best to go back to the beginning and read Deadly Virtues. In fact, you could commit  yourself to all six books in this series, read them in order, and be well served.

One of my favorite titles by Jo Bannister is a standalone called The Tinderbox.

***************
Cold Wrath 
is a different story. It’s the twenty-fifth entry in the series featuring Chief Inspector George Hennessey and Detective Sergeant Somerled (pronounced ‘Sorely’) Yellich. In each of these slender novels, Peter Turnbull presents the reader with an intriguing puzzle. A body is discovered in an odd place; sometimes it’s  several bodies. Watching the action unfold as Hennessey, Yellich,  and company pursue various leads is invariably a pleasurable experience – at least, it is for this devoted lover of police procedurals.

Part of the enjoyment of immersing oneself in these novels resides in the fact that  they’re set in York, in the north of England. This is a magical city, steeped in history and  crowned by the presence of York Minster, the largest Gothic cathedral in northern England.

Another thing that distinguishes these novels is the author’s use of somewhat antiquated diction. This is especially evident in the way he begins each new chapter. This, for example, appears above Chapter Three:

In which the reason why Miles Law delayed calling the police upon discovering the body of Anthony Garrett is revealed, and Reginald Webster and Carmen Pharoah and George Hennessey are severally at home to the urbane and always too forgiving reader.

There’s something oddly Victorian about it, n’est-ce pas? Reginald Webster and Carmen Pharoah, by the way, are additional members of Hennessey’s team of investigators. All of these characters have interesting back stories, which are reiterated anew in each book.

I’ve read something like seventeen novels in this series. I never tire of them, and always  look forward to the next one.

Jo Bannister

Peter Turnbull

 

 

 

 

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‘Rousseau had no theory of color, but fully understood its possibilities and became an absolute master of its effects.’ – Recollections of Henri Rousseau by Wilhelm Uhde

May 29, 2019 at 11:22 am (Art)

When I was a child, eight years old or thereabouts, my mother took me to the Museum of Modern Art in New York. I recall walking up some steps, arriving in a small room, and finding myself face to face with this:

I stood for a long time, just gazing. I was transfixed. Not only was the image enchanting, but I remember that to my young mind, the painting made perfect sense. Peace, tranquility and beauty – they all dwelt there.

This is how Henri Rousseau describes The Sleeping Gypsy(1897):

“A wandering Negress, a mandolin player, lies with her jar beside her (a vase with drinking water), overcome by fatigue in a deep sleep. A lion chances to pass by, picks up her scent yet does not devour her. There is a moonlight effect, very poetic.”

When I was able to tear my gaze away from this vision, I beheld this, on a nearby wall:

The Dream, 1910

Also enchanting, but not quite in the same way, or to quite the same degree – at least, to my young eyes.

I am currently reading Recollections of Henri Rousseau by Wilhelm Uhde (with an introduction by Nancy Ireson). Uhde, whose dates are 1874 to 1947, was a German art collector particularly interested in modern art. He moved to Paris at the age of 30, becoming an admirer and ultimately a friend of the painter Rousseau. Uhde later observed:

There are people who go through life as though they were special guests on earth; and then there are those whose joy is to give, rather than receive. These latter are few and far between. One of them was Henri Rousseau.

This little book is one in a series published by Getty. Their dimensions are roughly 4 & 1/2 by 6 inches; the thickness varies from one quarter to half an inch. The quality of the  reproductions is stunning. Each one opens with an introduction by a contemporary writer. There follows the writings of those who were the artist’s contemporaries, or nearly so. It is inspired idea, beautifully carried out.

The series, called Lives of the Artists, is available from the Getty Museum Gift Shop, and, in certain cases, from Amazon. Thus far, in addition to the above, I am the happy possessor of these:

Meanwhile, back to Rousseau, here are some more favorites:

Carnival Evening, 1885-86

Self-portrait from Isle Saint Louis, 1890

Tiger in a Tropical storm, 1891

The Football Players, 1908

 

 

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Tony Horwitz

May 28, 2019 at 10:51 pm (books, In memoriam)

 

Tony Horwitz, a gifted and witty prose stylist, wrote two of my favorite nonfiction titles: Baghdad Without a Map and Confederates in the Attic. I read the former when it came out in 1991. It might come across as somewhat dated now, but Confederates, with its wonderful stories of Civil War re-enactors and the lengths they go to to achieve authenticity, is probably just as entertaining today as it was when it came out in 1998.

Earlier this afternoon, I was checking my library reserves and was delighted to find that my reserve on Horwitz’s latest book, Spying on the South, had just come in. About an hour later, I read the news of his sudden death. He was here in the Washington area to promote the new book when he collapsed.

Tony Horwitz’s death was sudden, probably due to cardiac arrest. Married to novelist Geraldine Brooks, he was sixty years old.

This is very sad news.

Tony Horwitz June 8 1958-May 27, 2019

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‘The sense of proximate skin–of latent power beneath respectable garments–it had the effect of spring water, bubbling beneath her skin.’ – Courting Mr. Lincoln, by Louis Bayard

May 25, 2019 at 3:24 pm (Book review, books, Historical fiction, Mystery fiction)

  A thoughtful essay on historical fiction recently appeared in The New York Times Style Magazine. “Why Are We Living in a Golden Age of Historical Fiction?” may be  a somewhat clunky title – at least, I find it so – but author Megan O’Grady makes some points worth pondering:

A new kind of historical fiction has evolved to show us that the past is no longer merely prologue but story itself, shaping our increasingly fractured fairy tales about who we are as a society. The unmooring of time can be found everywhere, in battles for social progress we thought we’d already fought and won. In the media age, history is not simply a chain of facts recorded by scholars but a complex narrative harnessed by political parties and Facebook disinformation campaigns to speak to our sense of identity and belonging. The past we inherit speaks to us individually and collectively, but a common thread, much less a consensus view of reality, feels increasingly hard to come by.

The author mentions a number of titles. Three are among my favorites. In Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel evokes a turbulent period in English history with uncanny exactitude. And the other – O’Grady calls it “Penelope Fitzgerald’s strange and wonderful take on Novalis” – The Blue Flower.

Two mystery series, not well known in this country, more than satisfy my craving for atmospheric historical fiction: PF Chisholm’s Sir Robert Carey books and the Titus Cragg and Luke Fidelis novels written by Robin Blake.

And I’ve just finished the richly rewarding Courting Mr. Lincoln by Louis Bayard. While my husband and I were vacationing in the Hudson River Valley, I had  the great good fortune to be reading A Pale Blue Eye, Bayard’s fictional  account of Edgar Allan Poe’s brief and turbulent tenure at West Point. So I had high hopes for this new novel – which hopes were more than fulfilled.

I can do no better than to quote from the jacket copy:

Told in the alternating voices of Mary Todd and Joshua Speed, and inspired by historical  events, Courting Mr. Lincoln creates a sympathetic and complex portrait of Mary unlike any that has come before; a moving and deep portrayal of the deep and real connection between the two men; and most of all, an evocation of the unformed man who would  grow into one of the nation’s most beloved presidents.

 

There’s some lovely writing in this novel, as is seen in the title of this post. Also some  delightful dialog, as in this exchange wherein Joshua Speed is trying to teach the awkward and unschooled Lincoln the rudiments of ballroom etiquette:
“All right,’ said Joshua. Try it with me. Until you find your way.”
“We’ll regret this,” Lincoln said.
“Now you are the lead, so you will just…you will hook your right hand round my back. Like that. Now I will rest my hand…lightly…here.
“This will end badly.”
“Be quiet. Now…raise your elbows. Shoulder height, that’s it. And back straight. And knees…well, you can bend the knees a little.”
“Like this?”
“Well, no, not like you’re praying.”
“I am praying.”
Dare I use the word, charming? Because that’s what this is. and much of the rest of the book as well. Charming, heartfelt, and irresistible.

Louis Bayard

 

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‘Thus it will be our concern, however difficult the undertaking may be, to tell of the doings of the great Tintoretto….’

May 23, 2019 at 1:41 pm (Art)

….and through our narrative to make his works known, to tell how he reached the arduous apex of art; and how with his brush he brought to the images that he painted the greatest state of perfection and how he adorned painting with the most novel and rare inventions, so that nature, which at times is defective, obtained through his hands grace and grandeur.

Carlo Ridolfi, ‘Life of Tintoretto’: from The Marvels of Art, 1648, excerpt included in The Lives of Tintoretto

I do not know how to train my mouth to sing your praises adequately. How there could be so much intelligence in a small man’s body remains as much a mystery to me as a crocodile in the fourth clime.

….but you, twiddling with your paintbrush and a small dash of white lead, and mixing some red earth…you create a figure portrayed from Nature in half an hour….I also knew that you had so fine a conception for presenting gestures, postures, front-faces, foreshortenings, profiles, distant views and perspectives as anyone riding the modern Pegasus; and it would be very fair to say this truth, that if you had as many hands as you have stpirit and knowledge, there wouldn’t be a difficult thing that exists in Nature that you couldn’t create.

Andrea Calmo: ‘Further  delightful and ingenious letters from Calmo to Messer Giacomo Tinitoretto the Painter, the favourite of Nature, the Commixture of Aesculapius, and Stepson of Apelles’, 1548

Also from Lives of Tintoretto

[This post is a sort of addendum to a recent one entitled “A day at Washington’s National Gallery, Part One: The Little Dyer and his Outsized Genius.”]

Click to enlarge each of the following images;

The Miracle of St Mark Freeing the Slave, 1548

Man in Armour, 1550

St Louis, St George, and the Princess, ca 1553. Our docent told us that the Princess’s depiction on the dragon was considered, at the time, to be indecorous. This led to a discussion as to whether there existed anywhere specific instructions on how ladies should ride dragons. (Side saddle, maybe?)

 

The Origin of the Milky Way, 1570. This painting possesses a rather bizarre back story. From Wikipedia: ‘According to myth, the infant Heracles was brought to Hera by his half-sister Athena who later played an important role as a goddess of protection. Hera nursed Heracles out of pity, but he suckled so strongly that he caused Hera pain, and she pushed him away. Her milk sprayed across the heavens and there formed the Milky Way With divine milk, Heracles acquired supernatural powers.’

 

The Last Supper, ca 1563-64

 

Deposition of Christ, ca 1562

Venus, Mars, and Vulcan, ca 1551. Vulcan catches his wife Venus in the act of cheating on him. Mars, the other guilty party, is hiding under the bed.

 

Portrait of a Procurator of St Mark’s, 1570s

Portrait of Doge Pietro Loredan, 1567

For a while now, I’ve been curious about those strange round objects found going down the edge of the Doge’s ceremonial robe, and probably elsewhere as well. They’re especially noteworthy in Giovanni Bellini’s masterful 1501 portrait of the Doge Lorenzo Loredan:

The docent explained that those round objects  contained within them a selection of aromatic herbs. The purpose was to sweeten the air around the person wearing the cloak – remember, bathing was an infrequent activity in those days – and more important, to ward off the Plague.

 

Self-Portrait 1588. Tintoretto had lived a long, eventful and largely successful life. By this time, he was elderly and tired. He died in 1594, age 75.

I strove with none, for none was worth my strife.
Nature I loved and, next to Nature, Art:
I warm’d both hands before the fire of life;
It sinks, and I am ready to depart.

Poem by Walter Savage Landor, 1849

 

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‘I remained beyond mortality’s reach. Death and decay were for others.’ – Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan

May 20, 2019 at 1:02 pm (Book review, books)

I want to set down my thoughts about this book before looking at the reviews, which I’m eager to read.

First – let it be said – for me, this was a page turner. Right from the moment that Charlie Friend brings his newly acquired ‘Adam’ into his home and into his life, I had no idea how events would unfold, and I wanted badly to find out. From that moment – right  from the novel’s beginning – I had that careening roller coaster feeling; I never knew what was going to happen next. At the same time, I was getting to know Charlie – an okay guy, not entirely admirable – and his upstairs neighbor Miranda, with whom he has fallen in love. Naturally she gets embroiled too in Charlie’s Adam project.

Adam is a facsimile human  – nothing like the clunky robots one sees nowadays. He is remarkably close to being the real thing – in appearance, that is. As for his more subtle  attributes – knowledge, responses to human emotions, language, so many other things – these must all be uploaded into his brain-like mechanism. The online manual runs to 470 pages. The owner has a fair degree of choice with regard to the settings.

To say more would be to give away too much. Meanwhile, Ian McEwan’s writing is provocative and precise, as always. Here, Charlie and Adam have been conversing, in a way that has made Charlie feel profoundly uneasy:

The little black rods in his eyes were shifting their alignment. As I stared, they appeared to swim, even to wriggle, left to right, like microorganisms mindlessly intent on some distant objective, like sperm migrating towards an ovum. I watched them, fascinated–harmonious elements lodged with in the supreme achievement of our age. Our own technical accomplishment was leaving us behind, as it was always bound to, leaving us stranded on the little sandbar of our finite intelligence.

‘…the little sandbar of our finite intelligence.’ At times, I myself feel as though that sandbar is becoming steadily narrower.

A word to the wise: There’s a strong sexual undercurrent present in this novel. Not as blatant as it was in Nutshell, but all the more potent, for that fact.

I have to admit, it’s very difficult for me to write dispassionately about Ian McEwan. I find him brilliant.

There are certain authors I read no matter what they write. Ian McEwan is one of them. Over the course of more than 40 years and some dozen and a half books — including Amsterdam, Atonement, and The Children Act — his generally realist, propulsive work reveals an abiding preoccupation with both the repercussions of deceit and how life can change in an instant.

Heller McAlpin, NPR

There are some pokey moments in this novel, some dead nodes. But McEwan has an interesting mind and he is nearly always good company on the page. In whichever direction he turns, he has worthwhile commentary to make.

Dwight Garner, New York Times

Ultimately, Machines Like Me is a novel about the power of novels. Charlie realises that his stance regarding his purchase has been shaped by literature. “The imagination,” he says, “fleeter than history, than technological advance, had already rehearsed this future in books…” This is a novel that holds up the form as an example of the unreplicable subtlety of the human mind. While Adam composes haikus of stultifying banality to Miranda, he finds the novel’s obsession with misunderstandings and reversals obsolete in an age when technology has colonised the private life. Novels, McEwan is saying, do something that robots can’t: they are a heroic record of our imperfections, a celebration of the flaws that make us human.

Alex Preston, The Guardian

Half a century ago, Philip K. Dick asked, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?,” and now Ian McEwan is sure those androids are pulling the wool over our eyes.

His new novel, “Machines Like Me,” takes place in England in the 1980s, but it’s an uncanny variation of the past we remember.

Ron Charles, The Washington Post

Ian McEwan

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A day at Washington’s National Gallery, Part One: The Little Dyer and his Outsized Genius

May 12, 2019 at 4:20 pm (Art, Poetry)

Summer 1555

 

The Creation of the Animals 1551-52

 

The Marriage of Bacchus and Ariadne 1576/1577

Tintoretto’s father was named Battista Comin. Because of his fearlessness in battle, he earned the nickname ‘Robusti’ – the Robust One. Upon completing his military service, he took up the profession of cloth dyer – tintore di panni. His son Jacopo thus became known by the diminutive, Tiintoretto.

Okay, so having gotten that out of the way….

The above art works are among my favorites from the National Gallery’s spectacular exhibit. I was in the process of determining the date(s) of The Marriage of Bacchus and Ariadne when I chanced on a poem written about the painting by one Michael Field. Here it is:

Tintoretto

The Ducal Palace at Venice

Dark sea-water round a shape
Hung about the loins with grape,
Hair the vine itself, in braids
On the brow—thus Bacchus wades
Through the water to the shore.
Strange to deck with hill-side store
Limbs that push against the tide ;
Strange to gird a wave-washed side
Foam should spring at and entwine—
Strange to burthen it with vine.

He has left the trellised isle,
Left the harvest vat awhile,
Left the Maenads of his troop,
Left his Fauns’ midsummer group
And his leopards far behind,
By lone Dia’s coast to find
Her whom Theseus dared to mock.
Queenly on the samphire rock
Ariadne sits, one hand
Stretching forth at Love’s command.

Love is poised above the twain,
Zealous to assuage the pain
In that stately woman’s breast ;
Love has set a starry crest
On the once dishonoured head ;
Love entreats the hand to wed,
Gently loosening out the cold
Fingers toward that hoop of gold
Bacchus, tremblingly content
To be patient, doth present.

In his eyes there is the pain
Shy, dumb passions can attain
In the valley, on the skirt
Of lone mountains, pine-begirt ;
Yearning pleasure such as pleads
In dark wine that no one heeds
Till the feast is ranged and lit.
But his mouth—what gifts in it !
Though the round lips do not dare
Aught to proffer, save a prayer.

Is he not a mendicant
Who has almost died of want ?
Through far countries he has roved,
Blessing, blessing, unbeloved ;
Therefore is he come in weed
Of a mortal bowed by need,
With the bunches of the grape
As sole glory round his shape :
For there is no god that can
Taste of pleasure save as man.

I had not heard of this particular poet and so set about doing further research. The facts came to light quite readily.

This is Michael Field:

Under this pseudonym, Katherine Harris Bradley (1846-1914), left, and her niece and ward Edith Emma Cooper (1862-1913) published numerous works of poetry and drama and kept a lengthy journal entitled Works and Days. More information on these two can be found on Wikipedia and on the Poetry Foundation site.

For me, one of the chief joys of the internet consists in discovering unexpected linkages like this.

And never fear – There’s more Tintoretto to come…

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Crime fiction: First lines of note

May 5, 2019 at 10:47 pm (books, Mystery fiction)

I’ve recently come across two memorable beginning sentences in works of crime fiction.

From The Secret Pilgrim by John Le Carre:

Let me confess to you at once that if I had not, on the spur of the moment, picked up my pen  and scribbled a note to George Smiley inviting him to address my passing-out class on the closing evening of their entry course–and had Smiley not against all my expectations, consented–I would not be making so free to you with my heart.

The entire paragraph consists of this one sentence. The Secret Pilgrim is copyright 1990 but might as well be dated 1890, or even earlier, so graceful and old-fashioned is it, in its expressiveness.

For me, A Legacy of Spies (2017) was triumphant return to form for John Le Carre (not that he was ever really off form). And there is a new novel on the horizon: An Agent Running in the Field, due out here in October.

Alec Guinness as George Smiley. The Secret Pilgriim is dedicated by Le Carre to Alec Guinness, “with affection and thanks”

 

John Le Carre, at his home in Cornwall. What kind if expression is that: querulous? quizzical? inscrutable? some combination?

***************

A completely different case is presented by the opening gambit of the story “Dark Waters” by Freeman Wills Crofts:

For years Weller, the solicitor, had handled Marbeck’s affairs, and when he received the old man’s letter saying that he wanted to realise some securities, it struck him like a sentence of death.

Well, gosh! Talk about in medias res!

The story is off to a frantic start; Crofts sustains the pitch right through to the end of this brief and powerful tale.

“Dark Waters” appears in Bodies from the Library, an excellent new anthology featuring, according to the subtitle, Lost Tales of Mystery and Suspense by Agatha Christie and Other Masters of the Golden Age. As for Freeman Wills Crofts, he is one of the Golden Age writers whose works are  currently being reissued as part of the British Library’s Crime Classics initiative.

In the 1920s high culture priest T.S. Eliot, an avid detective fiction reader, classed Crofts with R. Austin Freeman, a still-active contemporary of Arthur Conan Doyle, as the two greatest living detective novelists. Of Crofts, Ivor Brown, drama critic and Oxford graduate in the Classics, sics, humbly declared: “Before his invention, mine eyes dazzle.”

Curtis J. Evans, Masters of the “Humdrum” Mystery: Cecil John Charles Street, Freeman Wills Crofts, Alfred Walter Stewart and the British Detective Novel, 1920–1961

The meticulous account of detective work, coupled with the ingenuity of the construction (and deconstruction) of the alibi were  to become Freeman Wills Crofts’ hallmarks, and they sett his debut novel apart from the competition. Over the next twenty years, the book sold more than 100,000 copies.

Martin Edwards on The Cask, in The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books

The Cask is excellent; I highly recommend it.

Freeman Wills Crofts  1879-1957

 

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