I'm not sure why I've never got around to reading Sara Woods' detective novels until now. The books were a fixture in the local library when I was growing up. They were published by Collins Crime Club, and because of my enthusiasm for Agatha Christie and Julian Symons, I knew that was a strong brand. But somehow, I was never tempted to try Woods.
This changed when I acquired an inscribed copy of The Windy Side of the Law, which she published in 1965. This is another in her long-running series featuring the London barrister Antony Maitland. And it has a fascinating if not totally original launching point. A man wakes up in a hotel room and realises he has lost his memory. But scrawled in his diary is Maitland's name..
The amnesiac turns out to be a chap called Peter Hammond, who is a friend of Antony's. Good old Antony is keen to help Peter to sort out what has happened to him, but things turn nasty when drugs are found in Peter's possession and even nastier when he finds himself implicated in a case of murder. The complications pile on as it emerges that he was due to marry one woman, but had apparently embarked on a relationship with another.
In his efforts to solve the mystery, Antony acts in a way that I didn't find entirely convincing, taking risks that would terrify most barristers, and sometimes for reasons that I didn't think were sufficiently compelling. Early on, the story becomes thrillerish and although it's a complicated tale, I felt that a key revelation was all too predictable. Not a bad story, then, but not one that entirely fulfils the great promise of the opening. I'd be happy to read more Sara Woods, but on the evidence of this book she strikes me as a competent second rank writer rather than a neglected superstar.