I was first drawn to Martin Russell's books many years ago, when I started borrowing them from my local library. His crime novels were a Collins Crime Club staple, and I very much enjoyed the clever plots. I think it's fair to say that characterisation wasn't his main interest, but his ingenuity was impressive. He continued to publish into the 1990s, and is still alive, though I've never met him, which I rather regret.
One day recently, while going through some old crime fiction reviews written by Edmund Crispin, I came across a rave review for Russell's 1975 novel The Client, and I decided to give it a go. It's an unusual stand-alone novel of psychological suspense - although Russell did create a series character, the journalist Jim Larkin, he didn't last long - and my impression is that the author was here aiming to create a more in-depth psychological portrait of a damaged individual, while preserving the mystery element.
Two men and one woman are drawn to a house in Streatham by an advertisement placed by a solicitor. They all had connections to a young and apparently wealthy woman, Susan Bradshaw, who dreamed of becoming a model. But Susan is dead (or is she? nothing can be taken for granted in this story) and she has given the solicitor some very curious instructions, which must be followed to the letter.
It soon becomes clear that the three people who have been summoned all played a negative part in Susan's life. Something sinister is going on, but we can't be sure exactly what it is. As usual with Russell, the story is told fluently, and the pages keep on turning. I wasn't convinced that the ending lived up to the premise, and I didn't love the book quite as much as Crispin did - but even so, its originality was impressive. Well worth seeking out.