Friday 3 March 2023

Forgotten Book - The Cast to Death

The Cast to Death is an obscure and very hard-to-find detective novel published by Ernest Benn in 1932. Benn, who published Dorothy L. Sayers and E.R. Punshon before their former M.D. Victor Gollancz lured their stars away, were good at talent-spotting and they evidently saw potential in the author, Nigel Orde-Powlett. As things turned out, however, he published only one further detective novel which (unlike this one) didn't achieve publication in the US. Both are listed in Bob Adey's Locked Room Murders.

Dorothy L. Sayers, so often a stern judge, had good things to say about Orde-Powlett's two novels. The only online review I'm aware of is by John Norris on the excellent Pretty Sinister blog (which is where I found the vivid cover image). As John mentions, Orde-Powlett was a member of the landed gentry. The family seat is Bolton Abbey in Yorkshire and perhaps he was distracted from writing by his social and family duties. He did, however, publish a book about practical forestry in the 1950s, which surprise, surprise, I haven't read.

The Cast to Death is set not in Yorkshire but in Hampshire and I did wonder if his fictional setting was inspired by the River Test, also the inspiration for Cyril Hare's setting in Death is No Sportsman. Like Hare's later book, this one is about angling. In fact, there's a great deal of information, material to the plot, about angling. I've no interest in angling at all, but the smoothness of the writing kept my attention.

For a debut novel, I'd say this is a good effort. A businessman called Lenton is murdered while out fishing, although there is some mystery about the wounds he suffers. He was on holiday with three angler friends; one appears to have a solid alibi, leaving the other pair as the prime suspects. The police think they have a strong case against one of them, but a young sleuth called Tony Rillington has other ideas. There are one or two weaknesses, but I liked this book more than John did. My thanks go to Jamie Sherwin for encouraging me to read it. Now I'm in search of Orde-Powlett's second mystery... 


lisergico said...

I definitely want to read this, any chance you can share a digital copy?

marmee said...

Just wanted to acknowledge the death of Christopher Fowler on the 3rd of March

Michael Lydon said...


The cover illustration is fantastic.