Friday 2 February 2018

Forgotten Book - Motive for Murder

Motive for Murder is a title close to my heart. It was an alternative title for my true crime book Urge to Kill,and the almost-identical Motives for Murder was the title of the Detection Club anthology which I edited, and which yielded four stories on the CWA Dagger longlist, three on the shortlist (including my "Murder and its Motives"!) and the ultimate winner. But today I'm talking about something completely different - the novel published in 1963 by Charles Barling.

Actually, Charles Barling was the name of the author's husband. Her principal writing name was Pamela Barrington and she lived from 1904-1986. Her first novel, White Pierrot, was published in the early Thirties, but it was a romance rather than crime, and her career only really developed after the Second World War. She was never a big name, although Account Rendered (1953) was filmed, with a very young Honor Blackman in a leading role.

Motive for Murder concerns the doomed marriage of Paul Hooper, a young estate agent, to Edith Maitland, an attractive and enigmatic older woman, who moves to Rye and decides to buy the house Paul grew up in, and with which he is obsessed. She seduces him, and they marry - though his eye is on the house rather than Edith. Before long, Edith starts an affair with another man, and behaves so unpleasantly to all and sundry that it's foreseeable she will wind up dead.

And so she does. The question is - who killed her, and why? The publishers described this as "an offbeat crime story with an ingenious twist", and I found it very readable indeed. In fact, I found the build-up very entertaining. But the later part of the story struck me as disappointing. A certain carelessness with the writing perhaps explains my disappointment, as does the fact that I didn't find the twist ingenious. This is nearly a very good mystery, and I'm glad I read it, but the excellence that I'd anticipated wasn't sustained. A shame, because there's something distinctive about this writer's storytelling.


Kacper said...

I agree with you that the ending was mishandled here, Martin--if I recall correctly, I think there were some passages that clearly implied the person who ended up being the guilty party couldn't have been the killer. But I guess I'm more about the journey than the destination, because I did enjoy this novel very much, and I think it's one of the best Barrington/Barling ones that I've read.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Kacper. I hoped you'd see this post, as you were of course responsible for my interest in this writer. And you're right, she's a really good entertainer, and the journey here is indeed a good one.