Friday 3 July 2009

Forgotten Book - Excellent Intentions

Richard Hull was one of the few chartered accountants to become a notable writer of detective novels. He burst on to the scene in 1935 with The Murder of My Aunt, which remains the book for which he is best known. It is a good story, although the ironic ending is easily foreseen by the modern reader. But my choice for the latest entry in Patti Abbott’s series of Forgotten Books is Excellent Intentions, which came out in 1938.

The plot is very clever. Henry Cargate has been murdered, and because he was an unpleasant chap, there are plenty of suspects. But although a murder trial is taking place, Hull does not reveal who is in the dock. Court scenes and police investigations are blended together cunningly so as to build the suspense.

But even when we do discover who is on trial, there is a terrific twist. It has a legal element that I certainly will not spoil for anyone who would like to track down this rather obscure title. Suffice to say that Hull is trying to show that sometimes the only way to achieve a truly just outcome is to thwart justice.

Richard Hull was one of those writers who were influenced by the ironic flavour of the work of Anthony Berkeley/Francis Iles. His reputation has not lasted as well, but he deserves not to be forgotten.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Familiar with Berkley and Iles but not this fellow. Sounds good though.

Martin Edwards said...

Yes, Hull was inconsistent, but did have plenty of clever ideas and this was a really good book.

gwern said...

> His reputation has not lasted as well, but he deserves not to be forgotten.

I fear Hull may eventually be remembered only for Borges's short evisceration of his _Excellent Intentions_, which is not a good foundation for a reputation.