He Could Not Have Slipped, my Forgotten Book for today by Francis Beeding, has one of those titles that you simply don't come across these days.It's an odd one, and cunningly chosen. At first, the reader thinks its meaning is obvious. But there is more to the title than meets the eye, and although this book is not quite at the same level of excellence as classics like Death Walks in Eastrepps, and The Norwich Victims, it is still very readable and displays the qualities of plotting and sound, thoughtful writing that made Beeding's name notable in the Thirties.
The Beeding name concealed the identities of two friends who worked together for the League of Nations, and their inside knowledge of the League's workings (and, they make very clear, shortcomings) is put to very good use in this story. They also combine aspects of the thriller with a neat whodunit mystery, and although I'm less familiar with their thrillers, since my Golden Age preference is for whodunits, this book tempts me to give more of them a try.
The Geneva setting is conveyed with conviction, and Beeding manages to introduce into a story of international crime Inspector George Martin, who appeared in The Norwich Victims and No Fury, another story I enjoyed. There is also a neat spin on the idea of the altruistic crime, much canvassed by writers of the Golden Age. A likeable, well-intentioned man who has devoted his life to looking after refugees become frustrated by the League's weakness. This leads him into a criminal conspiracy, and the misadventures of a co-conspirator who happens to be a dodgy lawyer (yes, they do exist) result in murder. But there is more to this story than at first meets the eye.
I really like the way Beeding made a number of sharp political points without becoming heavy-handed or didactic. This book dates from 1939,and it seems clear to me that the co-authors were deeply concerned about the League's weakness in the face of tyranny. But their main concern, quite properly in a book of this kind, was to entertain, and they succeeded. Yes, the central trick is not terribly difficult to fathom out, but it is handled with elegant economy. All in all, a little-known title that deserves to be resurrected.