Friday, 14 September 2012

Forgotten Book: S.S.Murder

S.S.Murder is the second novel by Q.Patrick which I’ve featured as a Forgotten Book. It first appeared in 1933, and a game of bridge is a significant part of the plot – just as it was a year or two later in Agatha Christie’s Cards on the Table. I’m not a bridge player (in my youth, I once went to evening classes to learn how to play, but retired, utterly defeated, after a few weeks). Fortunately, my lack of knowledge didn’t interfere with my enjoyment.

This is a more orthodox detective novel than that superb Q. Patrick book The Grindle Nightmare, and lighter in tone. The story is told through entries in a private journal made by a young woman journalist for the entertainment of her future husband. She is on board a luxury liner, taking a long trip to South America to help in recuperating from illness. But murder intervenes. A wealthy man is poisoned, and before long another person is thrown overboard.

The lively writing is part of the appeal of the book, but inevitably its quality is dependent on the plot. Who is the mysterious “Mr Robinson” who disappears after the first crime? I cherished the hope that, since that was the name used by Crippen when he fled across the Atlantic, there might be some link with the Crippen case. Sadly, it was not to be.

The puzzle is, however, suitably elaborate, and Patrick takes great care to play fair, and offer a range of clues. I guessed part of the solution, but not all of it. Nicely done, I thought. I also rather liked the way he referred to himself in passing – even including a plug for one of his other books! Cleverer than the much-debated modern use, by some, of "sock puppets", that's for sure. This novel is well worth a read, if you like classic whodunits. 


John said...

One that is rather hard to find over here. No US paperback edition exists that I know of. But I own a copy of the US hardcover! I started it years ago then put it down. Not that I wasn't interested. I think I just forgot I had been reading it. It's safely on the shelf with the bookmark still in it! I'll have to add it to this month's vintage mystery reads.

The variety of moods and styles in the Q Patrick/Patrick Quentin tag team writing partnership is amazing. When Hugh Wheeler entered the arena I think the books improved dramatically.

The Passing Tramp said...

Oddly enough, Q. Patrick appears on my blog as well, later tonight or tomorrow (running late).

Martin Edwards said...

John, good point about the variety. Very impressive.
Curt, look forward to reading it.

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

Great choice Martin - this is one (like THE GRINDLE NIGHTMARE too), echoing John's observation, that I have only ever been able to read in an Italian translation as I've never come across it in English. I used to love the various Patrick / Quentin / Stagge books - thanks for reminding me to dig out my old copy and see if it holds up.


Barry Knister said...

As one who published a thriller long ago (and hopes to publish other stories), I have a question regarding mysteries. Must a mystery--by definition--conceal the identity of the criminal to the end of the story? I would know the answer, were I schooled in mysteries and mystery writing, but I'm not. My own writing depends mostly on dramatic irony to maintain interest. Please advise.

Martin Edwards said...

Hello Sergio. It's amazing PQ/QP isn't better known today, don't you think?

Martin Edwards said...

Hi Barry, nice to hear from you. My answer would be no. A Judgment in Stone by Ruth Rendell, Malice Aforethought by Francis Iles and many 'inverted' stories by the likes of Austin Freeman are examples of stories where you know the culprit from the outset, yet crucial elements of mystery/suspense remain.