Friday 26 October 2018

Forgotten Book - The Murder of Martin Fotherill

Edward C. Lester is a little-known Golden Age writer who appears only to have written two books, both in the late 1930s. I hope to write about The Guy Fawkes Murder, the first of them, before long, but today my focus is on his second book, The Murder of Martin Fotherill. Both novels feature an elderly amateur sleuth called Moody. He's very much in the tradition of the Great Detective, and has an obliging Watson in the person of the narrator, a chap called Warrington.

The story begins with a man called David Fotherill reporting to the police that his brother Martin is missing. The authorities are not unduly concerned at first, but then a body is none other than Moody. Needless to say, he feel impelled to investigate, and given that Warrington was a work colleague of both the Fotherill brothers, he calls on his assistance.

The book reminded me of the fiction of Rupert Penny, a very clever writer who poured out Golden Age mysteries in the run-up to the Second World War before giving up the genre. Rather like Penny, Lester shows himself a master of the Golden Age conventions. We are offered a cipher, a challenge to the reader, and cluefinder footnotes. There are also numerous references to major Golden Age writers, such as Crofts and Austin Freeman, while Lester also borrows one trick from Richard Hull.

I enjoyed this book, and it's a pity that Lester (about whom I know very little, other than that he attended Westminster School) did not continue to write detective stories. The story begins splendidly, though I must say I felt it sagged after about half-way, as Lester piled on the complications rather too vigorously - I felt myself losing the will to live during the unravelling of the cipher. But for all that, it's a fun mystery, and doesn't deserve the total neglect which has been its fate.

No comments: