I've become increasingly interested in the work of John Bingham in recent times, and having enjoyed the film Married Life, I decided to read the book on which it is (rather loosely, it has to be said) based. This is Five Roundabouts to Heaven, which first appeared in 1953. It's an unusual book, again in my opinion betraying the influence of Francis Iles, especially in the deployment of irony, notably with the final sentence of the book.
The story is told, though, in Bingham's rather discursive style, and it does take some time to get going. The narrator, Peter Harding, is a hotel owner, and the story focuses on his relationship with a friend called Philip Bartels. I have to say that I felt the early pages moved slowly, which is usually a great weakness in a crime novel, but Bingham wrote readable prose, and he maintained my interest, even when I was becoming a bit impatient.
Friendship - of a kind - is also at the heart of Bingham's first novel, My Name is Michael Sibley, and the relationship between two friends where one is a much stronger character than the other, and where one covets the other's lover, obviously fascinated him. Peter is more forceful than Philip, and this drive determines the course of the narrative.
Philip marries a pleasant and attractive woman, but then falls in love with someone else, called Lorna Dickson. Unfortunately, when he introduces Peter to Lorna, Peter immediately falls for her as well. To make matters more complicated, Philip decides to murder his wife. His motive for so doing, rather than simply seeking a divorce, is not easy to fathom, but Bingham makes a reasonably good fist of his attempt to explain the seemingly absurd. The explanation is rooted, in fact, in Philip's weakness of character.
Overall, the story is interesting and out of the ordinary; one can see why its potential for filming was spotted, and the film-makers made a good job of it too. Despite the fact that Bingham does meander at times, I can recommend this one.