Friday 23 February 2018

Forgotten Book - The Doors Open

I've read Michael Gilbert's novel The Doors Open three times. First, when I was about 13 or 14 and was reading it purely as a light thriller. Second, when I'd qualified as a solicitor, and had become familiar with the legal case that Gilbert references in the book, and which may have inspired part of the plot. And third, recently, when I wanted to see how it stood up to the test of time .Each time, I found it an enjoyable read.

The Doors Open was Gilbert's third book, and first appeared in 1949. At that time, he was finding his way as a crime writer, although his smooth and readable style was already much in evidence. He'd begun with a classic detective puzzler, then followed with a thriller, and he would continue to ring the changes with his novels for about half a century. This versatility is admirable, in my view, though it may have meant that he never became quite such a household name as his gifts would have suggested.

The stern critics Barzun and Taylor regard this book as "his least satisfactory work", but I don't agree. On the contrary, it begins with an intriguing prologue, which relates to the theme of the book rather than the storyline itself, and then moves on to an equally intriguing chance encounter between a likeable young accountant and a middle-aged man who is contemplating suicide. The latter is subsequently found dead, and the police take little interest. But there is something suspicious about the case, and the young accountant starts to dig deeper. Before long, his curiosity puts his life in jeopardy.

A wide range of characters come into the story, including Nap Rumbold (who would go on to star in Death Has Deep Roots), Angus McCann, who had taking a lead role in Gilbert's previous novel, and Chief Inspector Hazlerigg, Different people take centre stage at different times. Stucturally, therefore, the book is rather unorthodox, but although this method of telling a story is risky, in my opinion Gilbert gets away with it, simply because he is such an accomplished entertainer. Worth seeking out.


Christine said...

I've also read it more than once - and really enjoyed it. He is a master story-teller.

Martin Edwards said...


Clothes In Books said...

OK with you two recommending this I will have to try to get hold of it! I do always enjoy Michael Gilbert.