Landed Gently by Alan Hunter

Landed Gently cover

Landed Gently by Alan Hunter was first published in 1957, it’s the first book that I’ve read by the author, but it won’t be the last. It’s a really old fashioned big house murder mystery, complete with floor plan of the house. Like many books with that setting it features a railway journey early on and for me that all contributes to the atmosphere. I love those old railway carriages and I could see it clearly in my mind.

It begins with Chief Inspector George Gently of the C.I.D. preparing to travel to Northshire where he has been invited to spend Christmas. Settling down in his first class train carriage suddenly he has to get up to help a young man into the carriage, Lieutenant Earle is in the US airforce and he’s spending Christmas at Merely Park, another large house close to where Gently is going.

So far so traditional – but although it was fairly obvious to me what was going to happen from very early on, that didn’t detract from my enjoyment and with twists and turns it reached a satisfactory conclusion and I didn’t guess the perpetrator.

I’ve seen Alan Hunter’s books about for years but I’ve never bought any before as I knew that there was a TV series featuring George Gently, and I’ve never wanted to watch it, mainly because I’m not keen on the actor that plays George Gently. It turned out though that the TV series is really nothing like the books at all, they just borrowed the character it seems.

Our friend Eric Brown the writer of the Langham and Dupre crime mysteries gave me this book to read.

Cork on the Water by Macdonald Hastings

Cork on the Water cover

Cork on the Water by Macdonald Hastings was published in 1951.

Mr Montague Cork is the general manager of the Anchor Accident Insurance Company. He has many years experience of working in insurance and when a claim is made for £25,000 because a man called Gabriel Daggers has died, Cork has a feeling that something is not quite right about it.

Daggers had died in a fly fishing accident in the Highlands of Scotland, but it was two weeks before his body was found in the deep water of a pool. Daggers has left the insurance money to a well known ballerina, but she doesn’t want it. She had had a complicated relationship with Daggers in the past.

Mr Cork takes Robert, one of his insurance employees, with him and they take turns in driving up to the Highlands in his Bentley. Their driving skills are poles apart as Mr Cork is very aware of the dangers of driving, due to the amount of claims he has seen over the years, he’s a nervous and risk averse driver, knowing how sheep can cause mayhem on the roads! His companion is a young man who had got the job in insurance because his father was a friend of Mr Cork but the work is killing him with the boredom, he had been a commando during the war and he needs a bit of excitement in his life. Mr Cork has chosen the perfect partner for his investigation.

This is a good adventure story with the plot involving wartime experiences. The action takes place on a Highland estate and there’s a lot of leaping around on moors and hillsides.

It is written in the John Buchan style, certainly no bad thing. But it also seemed very similar in many ways to the Mary Stewart book which I read just before this one – Wildfire at Midnight. The setting was the same, a Scottish Highland hotel and the surrounding countryside, it was a shame that I didn’t realise that to begin with because I did get a wee bit mixed up with the two books at one point. Both books were also written in the 1950s and they both had so many people puffing away on fags constantly, Mr Cork smoked Passing Clouds all the time, even lighting one from the one which he was just getting to the end of. It’s a wonder I don’t have a smoker’s cough after all that! Cork on the Water was a good mystery and action adventure. I think that Hastings only wrote three or four of these books featuring Mr Cork as an unlikely sleuth.

Macdonald Hastings was a well known face on TV in the 1960s, so says Jack, but I can’t remember him. Before that he worked on radio and during the war he was Picture Post’s War Correspondent. He was also the father of Max Hastings who has carried on in the same vein as a journalist and author of books about World War 2.

I read this one for the Read Scotland 2016 Challenge.