Friday 1 May 2020

Forgotten Book - Death of a Frightened Editor

Dean Street Press have done excellent work in reviving a wide range of vintage detective fiction titles and one of their latest rediscoveries is the husband and wife partnership of E. and M.A. Radford. These books benefit from informative introductions by Nigel Moss, and I've just read Death of a Frightened Editor, which was first published in 1959.

This is a novel brimming with Golden Age tropes. We have an apparent "closed circle" of suspects, the seven people who regularly travel in the first class coach of the London to Brighton train, all of whom seem to have a reason to wish the eighth person dead. We have poisoning by strychnine. We have a character leading a double life. We have gossip and mischief-making in country houses. We have a disparity between the victim's legitimate earnings and his evident wealth. We have a scientific puzzle worthy of Austin Freeman. We have...well, you get the picture.

The lead detective is Doctor Manson, who is not only a scientific expert in the Thorndyke class but happens to work for Scotland Yard. The technical trickery at the heart of the plot is rather neat - as with the Cecil M. Wills book I reviewed here last week. Mind you, I was rather baffled as to why this particular group of seven suspects should travel so regularly with the unpleasant victim.

The Radfords only turned to crime writing in their fifties, but they became quite prolific. I enjoyed a passing reference to the then fledgling Crime Writers' Association - my guess is that members of the CWA at that time liked to mention it in their books in order to boost its public profile. In many ways, this book reads as though it was written in the mid-30s - it's very different from the kind of novel that Julian Symons and Margot Bennett were publishing in the late-50s, in terms of plot, characterisation, and prose style. And it's a reminder that, long after the Golden Age, there were still plenty of writers around who were working in the traditional vein. 

1 comment:

Puzzle Doctor said...

I really enjoyed this one, the best, I think, of the Radford titles I’ve read, although Who Killed Dick Whittington? is very good too. But I take your point about the passengers continuing to share the carriage....