What is the point of re-reading a detective story? After all, if you know whodunit, surely it's a waste of time? This is an argument I've come across a good many times over the years. And there are certainly plenty of detective stories that most readers may doubt were worth reading once, let alone twice. (Mind you, that's true of plenty of books outside the crime genre, as well.) But I think a great deal of pleasure may be gained from re-reading a good whodunit, even if you can still remember who committed the crime and why.
A case in point is Death Walks in Eastrepps by Francis Beeding. I first read this novel in my twenties, but it has stuck in my mind ever since, and its reappearance as an Arcturus Crime Classic prompted me to give it another go. I knew the identity of the surprise culprit, and the even more surprising motive, but I was interested to see how the two authors who co-wrote under the Beeding name handled their tricky plot.
In this book, as in their The Norwich Victims, which I also re-read recently, they shift scenes and viewpoints regularly, giving the story a filmic quality. (Unsurprisingly, Alfred Hitchcock adapted another of their novels, which became Spellbound.) Even by today's frenetic standards, the book does not lack pace. It's an early serial killer novel, and there are half a dozen victims, before the culprit (or apparent culprit) is finally tracked down - after the original prime suspect had turned out to be innocent, if deranged.
There is a good courtroom sequence before a series of short and snappy scenes lead up to the final dramatic revelation. I was impressed by the way Beeding orchestrated a complicated storyline, and admiration of authorial craft is in itself a good reason to give a book a second reading. There are so many books I'll never read even once that I suppose I ought to feel guilty about spending time on a story I remembered pretty well. But I don't regret it at all, because I found it just as enjoyable the second time around as the first.