Friday, 30 October 2015

Forgotten Book - The Red Redmaynes

The Red Redmaynes was published by Eden Philpotts in 1922, the year in which he celebrated his 60th birthday. He had come to detective fiction relatively late, and to this day he remains best known for his books set in and around his beloved Dartmoor (which also features in this story.) He is also remembered as someone who knew the young Agatha Christie, gave her advice, and was the dedicatee of one of her novels.

The Red Redmaynes isn't a tightly plotted whodunit with a large pool of suspects of the kind for which Christie, Anthony Berkeley and others would become celebrated later in the same decade, but it does boast one notable plot twist, a pleasing device that on its own suffices to lift the story out of the ordinary. Another notable feature is that the "great detective", an American called Peter Ganns, only makes an appearance in the second half of the story. There's a particular reason why Philpotts deployed this unusual structural device, but to explain why would be a spoiler.

Throughout the book we follow a likeable thirtysomething Scotland Yard man, who comes across Robert Redmayne while holidaying in the south west, and then encounters a pretty young woman who, he discovers to his dismay, is happily married. But then her husband disappears, presumably murdered by Robert Redmayne, who also goes missing.

The plot thickens nicely from that point, although by today's standards the story moves at a fairly slow pace. Its unorthodoxy kept me interested, and I'm rather surprised that Philpotts wasn't invited to join the Detection Club when it was formed a few years later. Perhaps Anthony Berkeley or Dorothy L. Sayers didn't approve of his work, but I'm not sure why that would be, given that the Club's founder members included some relatively minor talents. A little mystery about a rather interesting writer.


Mathew Paust said...

Give me unorthodox most anytime. This sounds interesting.

dfordoom said...

It's definitely unconventional. It has its faults (it's rather slow) but it's worth a read.