Friday 7 December 2018

Forgotten Book - On Suspicion

Dulan Friar Whilberton Barber (a great name!) was a talented novelist who wrote crime fiction under the rather less memorable name David Fletcher. His career in the genre lasted fifteen years, and the quality of his writing suggested that, (even though I think it's fair to say that he was never a leader in the field), there was a good chance that he might have become a major star. Sadly, it wasn't to be, because he died of a heart attack at the age of only forty-seven.

I remember borrowing his books from the library in the 70s and 80s, and my wife met him when she went on an Arvon writers' course which he was leading; she was impressed. Recently, I was pleased to acquired the inscribed dedication copy of a suspense novel he published in 1985, On Suspicion, which I hadn't come across before.

At first the story looks as though it will turn into a rite-of-passage narrative. The focus is on 18 year old Nick Garfield, who has just passed his exams with flying colours and is destined for Oxford. But the story becomes something darker when, having stumbled across a corpse when taking a girlfriend into the woods, Nick becomes a suspect in a serial killer investigation.

This is, essentially, a book about character and relationships. The plot twists are essentially character-related. We know that Nick is innocent, but he tells stupid lies in a manner reminiscent of John Bingham's Michael Sibley, and the police pursue him relentlessly. It's a highly readable story, and although there are one or two points which bothered me and which I'd have liked Fletcher to elaborate upon, I found it gripping. Dulan Barber alias David Fletcher left us too soon, and deserves to be better known. 

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