Blake, Nicholas - The Beast Must Die
This book was originally published in 1938 by Collins and has been republished this year by Vintage. It is part of the series that Blake wrote featuring Nigel Strangeways, an awesome private detective who gets results where the police cannot. This classic style of this murder mystery book is very different to my usual taste and it took me a while to get into it. However, once I was comfortable with the style, I found it to be really enjoyable. It was rather refreshing to read a book that was very far-from-noir and not at all gruesome and I was pleasantly surprised by its unexpected ending. It must also be added that, despite the classic style with its Poirot-esque limited number of suspects, I didn't manage to guess which one of them did it, nor was I entirely comfortable with the guilty party's ready acceptance of the fact that they would be hanged for their crimes. The newspaper clippings at the end were a very fine touch and the whole book was a pleasure from cover to cover.
In brief, Franks Cairns, who writes crime fiction under the pseudonym of Felix Lane and is reasonably successful at it, has his life turned upside down by a hit and run accident that kills his only son. In his grief he decides to hunt down and murder the killer, and writes a diary detailing his thoughts and plans. Several remarkable coincidences, mixed with some smart ideas that come from his years of writing crime fiction, help him find somebody whom he believes is the guilty party and he must now plot the man's demise. Unfortunately, his plan fails but somebody else steps in and does the deed in his stead. Even more unfortunately, somebody also discovers his diary and he finds himself in the frame for a murder that he didn't commit. Help arrives in the form of Nigel Strangeways, and his wonderfully talented wife, who must now sift through all the evidence and identify the killer before Cairns, or Lane as he calls himself, is arrested.
The game, as they say, is afoot!
Very highly recommended.
Amanda C M Gillies, Scotland
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