Friday, 27 December 2019

Forgotten Book - The Unfinished Crime

Image result for elisabeth sanxay holding unfinished crime

Why hasn't Elisabeth Sanxay Holding featured more prominently in histories of the genre? It's a mystery in itself. The late Ed Gorman, a very good novelist as well as a considerable authority on crime writing, once commented on this blog about his admiration for her work. And the more of it that I've read, the more I've come to appreciate that he was, as usual, right. So, for that matter, were other Holding fans such as Anthony Boucher and Raymond Chandler.

The Unfinished Crime was one of her earlier crime novels. It appeared in 1934, and my US edition, published by Dodd, Mead, under their Red Badge imprint, has a splendid blurb which says that the story's quality "makes the usual array of fingerprints, weapons, alibis setc, look like claptrap". Talk about not pulling your punches! And surprise, surprise, the promise of the blurb is borne out by the story.

It's a story of suburban life. Andrew Branscombe is a well-off, conventional fellow who is contemplating marriage. He's not old, but he's rather staid and selfish. At first, though, he seems decent enough. However, an encounter with his beloved's estranged husband leads to his committing a crazy act of violence. The rest of the story is about his attempt to escape the consequences of his actions.

Holding's study of criminal psychology is compelling, and she cleverly shows the effect that the crime has on Branscombe's personality, drawing out the darker side that he had kept hidden until now. There's a touch of Francis Iles about it, but really Holding was a distinctive writer who needs to be judged on her own, very considerable merits. Yes, I was impressed by this story.

1 comment:

Kate said...

This is an author I have yet to try, but have heard good things about, so thanks for this review that confirms it! I haven't got a copy of this title, but I do have one of The Obstinate Murderer. I hope it is as good as this one sounds!