Friday 24 May 2024

Forgotten Book - Door Nails Never Die

There were quite a few eccentric book titles during the Golden Age and Door Nails Never Die has to be right up there with the weirdest of them. This novel, by impossible crime specialist Anthony Wynne, was published in 1939 - not a good year to promote your book, I imagine, given that people had other things on their mind (rather like the early days of the pandemic, I guess!). I'm not aware of any discussion anywhere concerning this particular novel, which I believe is very rare, even though it was published in the US as well as in the UK.

This is another novel featuring Dr Eustace Hailey, and it benefits from a good setting in the New Forest. The great man is consulted by the Reverend Ronald Foglore about a strange recent killing, during a horse-and-hounds hunt. Jack Stown was found by his cousin Patrick near a gate, dying of a stab wound. Nobody else was nearby. So Patrick appears to be the only suspect. The motive appears to be connected with Patrick's involvement with Prudence, the perhaps inappropriately named wife of Colonel Pykewood. Colonel Wickham (yep, no shortage of Colonels in this one) is convinced of Patrick's guilt. But Hailey is less certain. However, when another murder follows, things look very black indeed for Patrick, and he goes on the run.

This story has some features in common with Death of a Banker which I reviewed here eight years ago and which was published five years before this one. Again, that involved an impossible crime with a background of a hunt. But an intriguing set-up in each case, is - I'm sorry to say - followed by some very turgid stuff indeed. This is a real shame, because there are moments when Wynne writes well, but they are lost in the attempt to spin the story out far beyond its natural length. 

Spoiler alert - Patrick is not the murderer, surprise, surprise! The trouble is that it's screamingly obvious quite early on who is the guilty party. There's a huge amount of tedious circumlocution about impotence, and the only real interest is in learning how precisely the deed was done. I'm afraid I was very disappointed. It's not only a barmy title but a fairly barmy novel. I feel genuine regret in saying this about such a rarity, especially since Wynne was clearly trying to do something a bit different in certain respects. But it's not one I can really recommend, other than as a curiosity.


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