My choice for today’s Forgotten Book is Thou Shell of Death by Nicholas Blake. It dates from 1936, and was the author’s second book featuring the likeable investigator Nigel Strangeways. The Blake name concealed the identity of Cecil Day Lewis, who was Poet Laureate from 1968 until his death in 1972.
I haven’t read many Blake books over the years, but this one impressed me so much I will soon seek out others. It’s a well-written story, as you would expect, but the plot is also absolutely excellent.
A famous airman, Fergus O’Brien, calls Nigel in because he is being menaced by anonymous threats, foretelling his demise on Boxing Day (I gulped a bit when I read this, as my own Waterloo Sunset opens with Harry Devlin receiving a message that he is to die on Midsummer’s Day – happily, there is no further resemblance between the stories.)
Sure enough, O’Brien is found shot dead on Boxing Day in a hut surrounded by snow. A near-fatal attack is followed by a cleverly contrived murder – which member of the Christmas house party is responsible? The solution is splendid, with a literary clue that I failed to spot. A classic of the Golden Age, which I recommend.