I’m fairly confident that few readers of this blog will be familiar with my latest entry in Patti Abbott’s series of Forgotten Books – even though it dates back only as far as 1974, and its author died just nine years ago, not too long after publishing his final novel. The book I’ve chosen is Woman at Risk, the author is Miles Tripp.
Tripp qualified as a solicitor after serving in the RAF during the war, and he produced no fewer than 37 novels, 14 of them featuring a private eye called John Samson. During the 1970s, I had a phase of enthusiasm for his work, and I’ve blogged previously about a very unusual novel of psychological suspense of his called Five Minutes with a Stranger.
Woman at Risk is a very different, possibly unique, novel. I don’t want to say too much about its structure, because that would spoil some of the surprises in store for anyone who cares to read it. In a nutshell, it’s a short but clever novel, with a number of quite remarkable twists.
On the face of it, the story is about a rather selfish solicitor called Robert, whose wife mysteriously disappeared three years ago. He is a workaholic and his social life is confined to a regular Friday evening get-together in a pub with three other men. But he starts an affair with the wife of a client, and in the first few pages of the story, the woman dies in his house. In a panic, he decides to bury her body in a wood. Suffice to say that this is not a wise decision, and that his sins are bound to find him out. But what his sins are, and how they are found out, are questions to which few readers will guess the answers at an early stage of this ingenious narrative.
There’s just a hint of Boileau and Narcejac about some of the melodramatic touches in this novel, and I really enjoyed devouring it. I picked up my copy by chance from a catalogue issued by that very good bookseller, Jamie Sturgeon of Littlehampton. I was attracted by Tripp’s inscription in this copy to a policeman friend. He says that ‘Anglia TV bought the TV rights of this book but couldn’t get a suitable script written.’ This puzzled me, until I realised how the complexity of the story might well defeat a script writer. To find out what I mean, you’ll have to read the book – and if you do, I don’t think you will be disappointed.