Friday, 24 February 2017

Forgotten Book - Be Kind to the Killer

I've often extolled the virtues of Henry Wade on this blog, and my Forgotten Book for today is one of his later, less well-known efforts. Be Kind to the Killer was published in 1952, and it's another example of Wade's admirable determination never to write the same book twice. It's a police story, but his regular cop Inspector Poole doesn't appear (although Sir Leward Marradine plays a minor part), and the focus is on post-war London gangland.

Wade was, in other words, trying to move with the times and adapting his material and storytelling style accordingly. The book opens with the conviction for murder of a cop killer, who is spared the gallows because of a recent change in the law. At first, I wondered if the story would dwell too much on arguments in favour of capital punishment, but this proved not to be the case. Wade's attitudes come out quite clearly in his fiction, but he wasn't a didactic writer.

The dead cop's friend and colleague, Campion (was this choice of name a hat-tip to Margery Allingham's famous detective? I can't believe it's a pure coincidence), determines to find out if there's any truth in the suggestion that someone else was involved in the crime. The official police investigation has turned up nothing, so he embarks on a rather risky freelance operation, enlisting the support of the dead man's widow.

After a slow start, the book perked up, and I found myself increasingly interested, despite my general reservations about crime novels written by genteel English authors about gangsters. As usual, Wade's account of police procedure has an authentic feel, and the characterisation is good enough to keep us interested in Campion's fate. This doesn't rank with his masterpieces, but I enjoyed reading it.

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