Friday, 16 November 2012

Forgotten Book - The Stoat

For today's Forgotten Book, I've picked Lynn Brock's final novel, which was published in 1940, three years before his death. It is called The Stoat, which has to be one of the most eccentric titles in the genre. What's more, it's more or less inexplciable. Brock was a talented writer, though his tendency to over-complicate makes much of his work rather challenging for a modern reader.

The sub-ttile of this novel is another gem: Colonel Gore's Queerest Case. Well, the case is certainly pretty weird. We are introduced at the outset to a man called Margesson, who is plagued by a mentally disturbed wife and two horrible children who have been corrupted by the tenant of a neighbouring bungalow. Margesson consults first a doctor and then his old military colleague Colonel Warwick Gore, now a private detective.

Unfortunately, not only does Margesson soon wind up dead, but so do his dreadful offspring. At first, Gore doesn't take much interest, despite the brutal klling of his client, but a few months later, he is brought back into the still unsolved case, and has better luck this time. A journey to Ireland - the author was an Irishman - plays a crucial part in making sense of a bizarre sequence of events with roots deep in past misdeeds.

The darkness of Brock's books is more fashionable nowadays than it was when they were written, but his sometimes dense, sometimes elliptical style counts against him. This is a pity, for he was an interesting writer, with more flair than many of his contemporaries. He was, in books like this, trying to do something rather different with the detective story, and although the TLS gave him a rave review and suggested his work was reminiscent of Poe,it is a very long time since The Stoat was last in print. A pity, because this strange and meandering mystery novel deserves to be better known. It deserved a better title, too!


J F Norris said...

Is there not even one reference to someone being weasel-like? What an odd title. I know little of Brock's work. Not read any of the few books of his I own. I still think Vegetable Duck wins the prize for strangest and most off-putting mystery title.

Anonymous said...

Martin - I'm afraid I must agree with you about the title. Still, it sounds as though this one is definitely 'off the beaten path' and that always adds innovation to the genre.

Martin Edwards said...

John, I agree the Rhode book wins by a short head! If there was anything significant about stoats in the story, I missed it. But that may say as much about Brock's elliptical style as about my lack of attentiveness.