Friday, 5 August 2016

Forgotten Book - Foul Play Suspected

Let's pretend that you were to stumble across a signed first edition in a wrapper of an obscure 1935 novel by a debut detective story writer. How much would you expect to pay for it? Well, if the book in question was Foul Play Suspected by John Beynon, the answer would be a king's ransom. This is a rare book in any condition (an unsigned copy without a wrapper recently went for £500 on eBay) and if the author did ever sign any copies - I simply don't know if he did or not - they'd be exceptionally valuable.

Why is this? The simple answer is that the book is very hard to find, and that the author later became world famous as the science fiction novelist John Wyndham Yes, the creator of The Day of the Triffids cut his teeth on crime fiction, and this book, published by George Newnes, was followed by two others which didn't find a publisher.

The story is straightforward. Phyl comes back to England after a short and unhappy marriage has been ended by her husband's death, and discovers that her father, an absent-minded professor type of chap, has gone missing. With her cousin and a former admirer in tow, she sets about trying to find out what has happened to him. When murder is committed, Inspector Jordan comes on to the scene; he's a likeable if not especially memorable cop.

What is memorable about the book are the outspoken asides about arms manufacturers and the threat of war. This is a good example of a Golden Age mystery which casts light on the times in which it was written. The mystery itself, to be honest, is nothing special, but it's a pleasing quick, light read.

The image of the book's jacket, by the way, comes from Mark Terry's excellent Facsimile Book Jackets site.


Jane risdon said...

Thanks for this. One to think about when a quick read is needed.

Jerry House said...

This one has been one my GottaRead list for years. I'm a great admirer of Benyon/Wyndham/Harris and I've often wondered why this book fell through the republishing cracks. Perhaps some day. Thanks for the review, Martin.

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

So, just how hard is finding a reading copy, then ..?

Don Coffin said...

Pricey is one way to put it...the first offering that comes up on ABE is for $875. As it's probably still under copyright, it probably won't show up as an ebook any time soon.

Martin Edwards said...

Sergio - very hard indeed, I fear. I read the British Library copy. Don's comment, yes, I agree. Jerry - I love his sci-fi too. This one was very readable though also very light and not notable in plot terms.