Friday, 13 February 2015

Forgotten Book - The Noose

My forgotten book for today is one of Philip MacDonald's stories about Colonel Anthony Gethryn. The Noose is notable as the novel that launched the legendary Collins Crime Club in 1930, by which time MacDonald was establishing himself as one of the most entertaining detective novelists to have emerged since the First World War - a conflict of which Gethryn was a veteran. The war also proves to be central to the murder mystery plot.

Gethryn is summoned back to England from Spain by his wife Lucia. She has been persuaded by a striking woman that the woman's husband (whose name, Bronson, has connotations today that nobody would have dreamed of in 1930) is innocent of the murder of which he has been convicted. Unfortunately, an appeal has failed and the Home Secretary is not inclined to show clemency So Bronson will hang in five days' time unless someone else can be shown to be guilty. Yep, this is a classic clock-race story.

Lucia's intuition tells her to believe Mrs Bronson that her husband is innocent. Gethryn's intuition - and it's no more than that - points him in the same direction. Such is his reputation,as a Great Detective that his pals at Scotland Yard are by no  means unsympathetic. One of them actually takes some holiday (his first in two years) in order to lend a hand. What it is to have friends in high places...

This is a lively story with a good solution, and it deserves the praise that Harry Keating heaped on it when he introduced a reprint in the "Disappearing Detectives" series in the mid-Eighties. I agree with Harry that MacDonald wrote enjoyable books, even if their quality was admittedly uneven. This one has a sound plot, but its greatest merit is the fast-paced narrative style and crisp writing. MacDonald tended to favour short, snappy sentences, and there's usually a sense of energy in his books, as there is in this one. He can create vivid scenes - as when Gethryn comes face to face with the murderer- and it's no surprise that, not long after this book first appeared, he went on to enjoy success in Hollywood. Re-reading this one revived my enthusiasm for Gethryn, and I'll be covering at least one more of his cases in this blog before long.

8 comments:

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

Great review Martin and a fine reminder of MacDonald, always one of my favourite Golden Age authors - and in books like this, I think it's easy to see why he made the transition to screenwriting so easily!

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Sergio. Talking of PM and films, I saw the film of Rynox a while back, but I've never seen the one based on X v Rex.

Anonymous said...

Not only is it a clock race story, it is probably the first one ever written, having been published in 1930. I cannot find a book on this theme that is any earlier. It also seems to have been a fairly popular book; my copy shows it had been through 14 printings by 1951.

Philip Amos said...

But I suspect you have seen The List of Adrian Messenger, Martin, yes? Highly recommendable, I should say, with John Huston directing and an excellent cast. Those who have seen it will know that the film has an extra element 'a clef', a bit of sheer fun that it would be a great shame for anyone to spoil, though a number of internet entries on the movie do exactly that and in complete detail. No spoiler from me and I do think it a fine entertainment.

Martin Edwards said...

Anon - thank you for that very interesting comment. I had not realised that it was the first of its kind and am now desperately trying to come up with an earlier example - but no luck so far!

Martin Edwards said...

Philip, yes, it's a movie (and book) I enjoy. That extra element you mention is a very pleasing bonus, I agree.

noah-stewart.com said...

There are actually two films based on X vs. Rex (I discussed them last year in my blog, here: http://noah-stewart.com/2014/01/01/mystery-of-the-dead-police-by-philip-macdonald-1933/). The Mystery of Mr. X in 1934, and The Hour of 13 in 1952. Both are quite good and I think you'll find them enjoyable!

Martin Edwards said...

Noah, many thanks both for the info and the link. I'm sure I will enjoy them.