Friday, 15 September 2017

Forgotten Book - Murder Mars the Tour

My Forgotten Book today is Murder Mars the Tour, the debut novel of Mary Fitt, published in 1936. Fitt was an interesting writer, and I'm sure she was an interesting person, too. In real life she was an eminent classicist called Kathleen Freeman (1897-1959), an academic with a specialism in Greek whose first book, The Work and Life of Solon, included translated poems.

She wrote a number of scholarly articles and mainstream novels before adopting the Fitt name, and turning to crime fiction with this book. Presumably it was well received, and she proceeded to write a run of detective stories which often had something out of the ordinary about them. They weren't always successful - I'm afraid I found her last book, Mizmaze, dire - but they were often interesting, and she was well-regarded enough to earn election to the Detection Club in the early Fifties.

Murder Mars the Tour is a likeable book. As a mystery, it's slightly unorthodox, and the whodunit plot is scarcely in the Agatha Christie league. Even so, it kept me engaged from start to finish. It's narrated by a chap whose brother encourages him to go on a walking tour in Europe with a motley group of individuals who belong to the same club. During the holiday, they come across a woman whom the brother had been involved with. When a murder occurs, the plot (not before time, it must be said) begins to thicken.

The narrative voice, intelligent and rather prissy, is distinctive, and although the puzzle is nothing special, the writing is certainly proficient. I liked the atmospheric way in which the tour was described, though I was intrigued that.there was no real mention of the political difficulties that were convulsing Europe at the time. I assume that Fitt went on a tour of the kind she describes, and decided that it would make a good setting for a mystery novel. If so, she was right. I'm not suggesting that this book is a lost masterpiece; it isn't. But it did entertain me.  .

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