Friday, 22 November 2013

Forgotten Book - The Green-Eyed Monster

Patrick Quentin was one of the best American detective novelists of the 20th century. The name conceals a complex web of identities - two men, two women, and a wide range of books published across more than 30 years. I believe Quentin was the favourite American writer of Anthony Berkeley, who was no mean judge, and at one time his books were very popular. The Green-Eyed Monster, written by Hugh Wheeler alone, and published in 1960, was one of the very last Quentins, and it's my Forgotten Book for today.

The story is told by Andrew Johnson, who is haunted by the fact that his beautiful wife Maureen may be being unfaithful to him. His fears are heightened by anonymous letters which suggest he is the only one in New York who does not know what she is like When she is found murdered, Andrew is one of the suspects. To prove his innocence, he has to find who really did kill Maureen, and why.

There are plenty of possible culprits. His younger brother Ned is charming but unreliable. And what about his mother's latest husband, Lem? The list of candidates keeps growing as the plot twists and twists again. Amusingly, the possible killers include a Mrs Margaret Thatcher...As with all books by Quentin, its brevity and pace are assets, and the solution is hard to predict.

Having said all of that, I wouldn't rate this book as a classic. "Highly competent" is closer to the mark. You can tell that Wheeler is an accomplished wordsmith, and he does pay attention to characterisation. But the snag, for me,was that I found most of the characters rather irksome, and Andrew's weakness (as I saw it) somewhat annoying. As a result, I didn't care as much as I should have done about the mystery, or about the fate of the odious Maureen. A good piece of craftsmanship, this one, but there are better Quentins out there.

1 comment:

R.T. said...

Thanks for the tidbit about the author's real identities. There are quite of few of those "teams" out there. I know the fellow who collaborated with S. J. Rozan (Carlos Dews), and I have no idea how multiple writers can ever make it work. Writing, to my mind, has always seemed like such a solitary imaginative effort.