Friday, 14 July 2017

Forgotten Book- Death By Two Hands

My Forgotten Book for today is another by Peter Drax. Death By Two Hands was first published in 1937, and until Dean Street Press reprinted six Drax books, it was the only one I'd ever found in a first edition. Like Murder on the High Seas, it's unusual for a crime story of the 30s, because it centres exclusively on working class people, with not a country mansion or secret passage in sight.

A young woman called Alma Robinson leaves her home town to live with her disreputable uncle, and becomes a pawn in a criminal game. A dodgy dealer called Rivers hires the ruthless Spike Morgan to steal a consignment of fox furs. Spike and his sidekicks carry out the plan, but things go wrong, and a man is killed. Soon there is another death...

Drax describes the crime with a realism that we tend to associate more with post-war novels than those of the 30s. He's also pretty convincing when it comes to police procedure. Chance plays a part in the investigation, but the story unfolds in a believable way, and there's a small twist right at the end. The treatment of criminals and their activities is much more convincing than was often the case during the Golden Age.

I'd also like to mention the quality of Drax's writing. He has a very good turn of phrase, and his observations are perceptive and convincing. His evocation of character is excellent, and the book is also good on urban settings. Drax's world is very far removed from Mayhem Parva. I'm surprised these novels weren't better known in the 30s, and I'm delighted that Dean Street Press have reprintged them.

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