Friday, 24 June 2011

Forgotten Book - The Murder at Crome House

The Murder at Crome House is my choice for today's Forgotten Book. It was first published in 1927, and was an early effort from the husband and wife team of GDH and Margaret Cole. My copy is a Penguin paperback edition, with rather entertaining biographical notes of the co-writers. Apparently, Douglas Cole "had the fidgets" if he was not writing one or more books at any one time. His wife was the daughter of a classical professor who insisted, when she was six years old, that she must ask for her Sunday dinner in Latin, and severed his connections with her when she married a socialist.

The central character in the story is James Flint, a lecturer and tutor in history and economics, who is clearly based on Douglas Cole himself. He borrows a library book about psychoanalysis and auto-suggestion, but unimpressed, he soon discards it in favour of Anthony Trollope. However, a photograph slips out of library book. It appears to depict one man in the act of shooting another.

By the time the (astonishingly careless) owner of the photograph turned up and asks for it back, Flint is under the impression that it has been disposed of. That proves not to be the case, and Flint soon finds himself persuaded by a young solicitor friend to help establish the truth about the murder six months earlier of a wealthy and disagreeable chap, the owner of Crome House.

Fans of the Coles rate this as one of their best efforts. In some respects, it reminded me of the work of Freeman Wills Crofts, as the unravelling of an alibi plays an important part in the story, and a plan of crome house, and a sketch map, are supplied. I thought the culprit was pretty easy to spot, but this is quite competent example of relatively early Golden Age detective fiction and it is livelier than some of the Coles' later books, when Margaret evidently became a bit bored with the mystery game. Worth seeking out if you are keen on the history of the genre between the wars.


pattinase (abbott) said...

I am sure I read this one. Thanks!

vegetableduck said...

Martin, I know Barzun and Taylor praised this one, but I never found it too interesting. Oddly enough, some of my favorite Coles books are the later ones.

People who like the Crime Queens model of detective fiction should try, among their earlier books, Burglars in Bucks, Corpse in Canonicals, Poison in the Garden Suburb or The Blatchingotn Tangle.

vegetableduck said...

Blatchington! *bless you!*