Friday 16 December 2022

Forgotten Book - A Word of Six Letters

Over the years I've acquired a handful of books by Herbert Adams, but I've been deplorably slow in getting round to reading them. He's one of those authors who was good enough to be published under the Collins Crime Club imprint, but although Dorothy L. Sayers, in several reviews of his novels, was fairly kind, I've had the impression that he was very much a writer of the second rank,and so there seemed no reason to give his work great priority - there are too many books, too little time!

However, I recently decided to have a go at one of his books which made it into paperback, as a White Circle Mystery. A Word of Six Letters, which dates from 1936, is a stand-alone novel, not one of the long series featuring Adams' detective Roger Bennion. And I found it a pleasant read. By the by, crosswords play a minor part in the storyline, but perhaps not to the extent that the title implies.

After an introductory chapter -set on a cruise ship - in which a young doctor,  Bruce Dickson, meets the attractive and charming Ella Chilcott and promptly falls in love with her, we move to Dorset. Bruce has started working in a small village practice, and - what a coincidence! - in the same village is a country house owned by Ella's rich and irascible great-uncle, Barty Blount.

Old Barty is one of that legion of wealthy characters in Golden Age fiction who are unwise enough to surround themselves with grasping relatives. It's really no surprise when he bites the dust, quite literally, by falling from a horse. Bruce decides that he was given a drug which in effect caused the tragedy, but it seems impossible to determine who administered the crucial dose.

It's not too difficult to work out whodunit and some time before the end, the book develops into a blend of thriller and love story. But it's nicely done and Adams has a light, agreeable style. I'll be glad to read more of his work...

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