Friday, 24 June 2016

Forgotten Book - The Link

The Link is an Anthony Gethryn novel dating from 1930, and written by Philip Macdonald. I've mentioned my enthusiasm for Macdonald several times on this blog, but this book is one I first read in my twenties, and found disappointing. I decided to give it another go, to see whether my earlier judgment had been too harsh.

Macdonald liked to ring the changes in his novels,and here he gives Colonel Gethryn a "Watson" figure, a vet called Michael Lawless, who narrates the story. (Lawless was obviously a name that appealed to Macdonald: one of his pen-names was Anthony Lawless). Lawless is hopelessly in love with the young and charming wife of a deeply unpleasant "beer baronet" called Grenville who has spent several years in America. An unexplained mystery of this book is why she was ever stupid enough to marry such an odious chap. Lawless' passion seems destined,however, to remain unrequited.

At a lunch party hosted by Grenville, Lawless meets Gethryn, and the two men join forces shortly afterwards, following the murder of Grenville. He has been shot, and his body has been moved at least once. The local publican, Dinwater, is arrested - he had been Grenville's batman, but the two men had recently fallen out. Gethryn is not, however, convinced of his guilt and, with Lawless' help, sets out to discover whodunit.

This book has its admirers, but when I first read it, I felt that its supposed ingenuity came to nothing, because the crucial red herring was emphasised with such tedious insistence that one was bound to be sceptical about it. The plot trick involves a type of deception that Agatha Christie deployed, but with much greater finesse.

Second time around, I am afraid that I found myself again irritated by the lack of subtlety in the story's construction and also by the feebleness of the American aspects of the story. Two detailed appendices set out the intricate minutiae of the murder plot, but by that stage, alas,I was past caring. Macdonald was trying to be original, an aim in which he sometimes enjoyed real success, but this book, despite a few pleasing touches, is one of his weakest efforts.,  

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