This vintage crime book was first published in 1946 which is just about my favourite crime fiction era but somehow this one didn’t hit the spot for me.
The action begins in London where Meredith, an absent minded university professor inadvertently gets involved with a criminal gang who are involved in the procurement of famous works of art. With Europe being in upheaval due to the war there’s a lot of scope for criminal types in that line of work.
I quite enjoy crime mixed with humour but this one just took daftness to the extreme and it began to resemble a sort of Indiana Jones type of storyline, very far-fetched and ‘boys own adventure story’-ish.
The action switches to Moila, a Scottish island which I think is the Isle of Mull. Strangely Mary Stewart uses this island as the setting of her book Stormy Petrel, but Moila doesn’t seem to exist, the Gaelic for Mull is Muile.
Meredith is joined in his adventure by a young woman, Jean Halliwell, who had been a student of his and towards the end of their Mull adventure the whole thing takes on the feeling of a James Bond film, Modernist house with gadgets, stylish swimming pool and scantily clad beauties and all.
I’m sure that Ian Fleming must have read this book and thought to himself that he would have a go at something like that himself – only more so! The first James Bond book wasn’t written until 1952.
Michael Innes often liked to have a storyline involving art and of course as he was a university lecturer in his day job he also liked a university setting. There was, and still is a lot of snobbishness in such circles about the types of novels which they read, novels being seen as a bit of a guilty pleasure. Crime fiction was always seen as acceptable light reading and so Innes wouldn’t have been looked down on by his colleagues, but he is careful to have his books full of quotes and references to literature and art, just so that his books would be seen as ‘high class’ crime.
As I said, this wasn’t really my cup of tea but that’s because it wasn’t the cosy sort of railway station and country house setting which I enjoy most. If you’re into crazy action and nutty situations then you may well love this one.