Friday, 7 December 2007

The Act of Roger Murgatroyd

Gilbert Adair is a novelist and writer of screenplays whose writing I’ve come across from time to time over the years and always found interesting and intelligent. I enjoyed his novel A Closed Book, and, although I haven’t read it, I very much like the title of another of his offerings, The Postmodernist Always Rings Twice. I wish I’d thought of that one.

Lately, he’s turned his attention to classic Golden Age detective fiction. The Act of Roger Murgatroyd introduces Evadne Mount, as crime writer as outspoken as Dame Agatha was modest, and Adair has followed it up with A Mysterious Affair of Style (another nice title,) in which Evadne returns.

I’ve just finished Murgatroyd and I enjoyed it much more than I anticipated. I wondered if Adair would patronise those classic writers whom I have enjoyed so much, but although this is a fun book, with plenty of sly jokes (and not just limited to poking fun at Golden Age fiction, either), Adair does a very good job at constructing that most artificial of stories, a locked room mystery. The central plot device is neat, and the dialogue throughout is light and agreeable. You don’t need to love Dame Agatha to enjoy this novel. But, contrary to expectation, it probably helps.

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