Friday, 31 July 2015

Forgotten Book - Earth to Ashes

Alan Brock is undoubtedly a forgotten writer, but I enjoyed Further Evidence, which I covered on this blog a little while ago, and duly encouraged, I tried his 1939 novel Earth to Ashes. I wasn't disappointed. It's a very readable story indeed, and it has the added bonus of being based on a true crime that interests me greatly (although Brock is careful to include a prefatory note making it clear that there are many differences between his story and the actual case.)

An affable and charming man called Brooks befriends the attractive Maude Ashe, only to learn that she is married, albeit to an invalid. The Ashes aren't poverty-stricken by any means, but a little extra money never does any harm, and soon they take in Brooks as a lodger. Brooks pursues his interest in Maude, and although she resists his overtures, she does so in such a way as to give him a degree of encouragement. So he persists, and their relationship develops.

The story switches gear when it becomes apparent that Brooks is not all it seems. Soon the reader with an interest in murder cases of the past will recognise similarities between his behaviour and that of A.A. Rouse, who in 1930 was tried in connection with the notorious "Blazing Car Murder". As it happens, I wrote about that very case recently in Truly Criminal. It has long fascinated me, and elements of the case have featured in stories by authors as notable as Dorothy L. Sayers, J. J. Connington, and Milward Kennedy.

Brock does a good job of maintaining interest, even when he switches focus from the behaviour of Brooks to the investigation carried out by the police. His depiction of the relationship between a clever young constable and his less than brilliant boss is entertaining, and his variations on the Rouse case theme are pleasing. I'm rather surprised that Brock has been ignored for so long. His books aren't easy to find, but I'm on the look-out for another. This is definitely a good one.

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