Friday, 15 April 2016
Forgotten Book - Bury Him Darkly
Bury Him Darkly by Henry Wade (1936) is, at first glance, a Golden Age novel of a familiar type. A series of robberies take place at jewellers' shops; in the course of one of them, a man dies; a suspect has an alibi; and the police go to great lengths to break it down. It sounds like the sort of book that Freeman Wills Crofts specialised in, and there's no doubt that Crofts was an early influence on Wade. But there is more to Wade's book than meets the eye.
Crofts' books about Inspector French record meticulous police investigations into carefully engineered crimes. This book goes further. We are presented with a picture of a team of police officers, from Assistant Commissioner (Crime) to constables, working together in the common cause. Best of all, we follow the enquiries of Wade's finest character, Inspector John Poole, and learn that, for all his brilliance, he is also very human and fallible.
The details of the crime are cleverly put together, and although one can make a stab at figuring out whodunit quite early in the story, Wade keeps a number of pleasing surprises up his sleeve. On a personal note, I was fascinated when (as in at least one other Golden Age novel) a body is found on a rubbish dump. When I was writing my first book, All the Lonely People, and came up with the same idea as a plot twist, I believed I was being highly topical,as well as making a sort of social comment about the Britain of that time. Ah, the naivete of youth! It's harder to be truly original than I realised.
Wade is very good at depicting the way in which police officers interact, and does not not neglect the petty jealousies, the mistakes, and the temptations to bend the rules. It's all rather sophisticated. Wade's presentation of female characters at this point was not quite as compelling (he remedied this in Lonely Magdalen) but he really could write. Even if you find alibi-breaking dull - and it's not my favourite form of fictional detection - this book is well worth a read. And the unusual ending is also very good and very life-like.