Friday 27 November 2020

Forgotten Book - Cobweb

Two novels that Pat Flower wrote towards the end of her career in the 1970s, Crisscross and Cobweb, re-work ideas and themes from her 1962 novel Hell for Heather. Of these three titles, I think the earliest book was the best, and Crisscross the least compelling. Cobweb, published in 1972, is pretty good. In Britain it appeared under the Collins Crime Club imprint, but doesn't seem to have made much impact. Indeed, she was an under-rated writer in her native country, although in her adopted homeland, Australia, she was known as a successful scriptwriter as well as a novelist.

By the time Cobweb appeared, Flower had dispensed with her series cop, Inspector Swinton, although this story features a shrewd and persistent detective called Fisher who is cut from much the same cloth. But Flower's main interest lay in the exploration of the criminal mind, and the protagonist is Martin Briggs, who at the start of the story is dissatisfied with his marriage to the lovely and wealthy Ellie.

Like many of Flower's lead characters, Martin is, beneath a superficial charm, cold and selfish. He murders Ellie, but the crime proves not to be the solution to his problems in life. He is attractive to women, and has a fling with a casual acquaintance before falling for someone else. This is Valerie, who comes into his life unexpectedly, breaking the news that she, rather than he, has inherited Ellie's money. To his delight, however, she seems susceptible to his charms...

The surprise solution is foreshadowed quite neatly and Flowers charts Martin's collapsing self-confidence with clinical precision. There is, however, a sad touch of irony about the storyline. Martin is tormented by insomnia and takes capsules to try to get a decent night's sleep. Flower herself experienced similar misery and in 1978 she took a fatal overdose of her pills. It was a tragic end to a career of some distinction.

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