I should really have enjoyed this book as it has all the elements which I usually like, 1940s setting, a railway journey and also it involves a theatre company of actors who are rehearsing for their opening night, a scenario which I’ve enjoyed in the past, but unfortunately there were no likeable characters, in fact most of them I wouldn’t have wanted to spend any time with at all, so it was harsh to be stuck in a book with them.
It’s a Gervase Fen mystery, first published in 1944, so it’s the first in a series of nine books featuring him, I can only surmise that the books got better further into the series, this is the first one which I’ve read. Fen is an Oxford professor who also writes mysteries, this is also a scenario which I’ve enjoyed in the past. In fact Crispin copied this from Michael Innes, even nicking one of his characters names. Going on the evidence of this one Michael Innes is a much better writer, and would also qualify for Read Scotland 2014 as he was a Scot.
In the 1930s and 40s there seemed to have been an awful lot of snobbery amongst some crime writers. It’s understandable I suppose, especially if the writer was working as an academic too. They obviously wanted their colleagues to think that they weren’t engaged in writing dross and this led to them dropping in screeds of Latin and in this case German too. I did both those languages at school so it isn’t a problem for me but it must be a frustration to people who aren’t able to translate for themselves. I know that much as I love Dorothy Sayers – it did so annoy me when she went as far as writing in Greek – I mean really! Even when I was at school the only boys who did Greek were the couple who wanted to become ministers – and yes of course in that dim distant past they were all boys.
Anyway, back to the book, there was some humour, always a plus as far as I’m concerned but there was also a lot of nastiness, especially about the women, it was all quite mysoginistic, even by 1940s standards. I wasn’t even impressed with the mystery part of it, I could only give it 2 stars on Goodreads.
I believe that the last book in this series is his best one – The Moving Toyshop. I wonder if I could just skip the other seven and go straight to that one!