Friday 24 October 2008

Forgotten Book - Five Minutes with a Stranger

This is my latest contribution to Patti Abbott's series about mysteries that deserve not to fall into oblivion.

Miles Tripp (1923-2001) began his crime writing career with the well-regarded Kilo Forty in 1963, but although his last novel, Deadly Ordeal was published as late as the year before his death, he never quite established the reputation that his early success suggested was likely.

One reason for this may have been that, for much of his life, writing took second place to his work as a lawyer employed by the Charity Commission. Another may be the sheer variety of his work: he veered from straightforward sixties thrillers, written as Michael Brett to sporadic entries in a series featuring private investigator John Samson. A number of the Samson books have considerable merit, but Five Minutes with a Stranger has lingered in my mind since I first read it not long after publication and a re-reading confirms it as my favourite of the Tripp novels that I have encountered.

It is a stunning and occasionally gruesome tour de force that comes as close as any novel by an English writer to the macabre sensationalism of Boileau and Narcejac. An un-named narrator, a young and na├»ve man, is conducting a study into the meaning of ‘charity’. Posing as an accident victim walking along the highways and byways, he seeks a Good Samaritan who will give him a lift. A beautiful woman stops for him; when she takes off her dark glasses, he realises that she is terribly disfigured. Soon he plunges into a nightmarish sequence of events and, although suspension of disbelief is required, the book is not only unsettling but also thought-provoking. This is a novel that deserves to be better known.


Scott D. Parker said...

Unsettling. Good! I love books like that. And I'm quite curious as to the meaning of "macabre sensationalism of Boileau and Narcejac." While I don't know the two authors you mention, the images conjured in my mind from the words "macabre sensationalism" lead me to think I might enjoy these books.

David Cranmer said...

Suspension of disbelief is no problem and this sounds like an excellent read.

Martin Edwards said...

Scott and David - thanks for your comments, which have led me to your enjoyable blogs. Let's exchange links!
Scott, Boileau and Narcejac wrote the books on which the films 'Vertigo' and 'Les Diaboliques' were based, as well as many other stunning stories, such as 'The Prisoner'. Strongly recommended.

David Cranmer said...

Thanks Martin. I've added a link to your blog on my page. Looking forward to reading more.