Friday, 17 December 2010

Forgotten Book - The Crime at Diana's Pool


Canon Victor Alonzo Whitechurch was a founder member of the Detection Club, and a book he wrote in 1926 is my latest choice as a Forgotten Book. It is The Crime at Diana’s Pool, and is one of his six crime novels – he also wrote some good short stories with railway settings, several of which feature Thorpe Hazell, a sleuth who memorably combines vegetarianism with health faddishness and an enthusiasm for rail travel.

This is a book with a classic country house setting. A garden party ends in the murder of the host, Felix Nayland, and the obvious suspect is a mysterious chap – foreign and needless to say, bearded – who cons his way into the band that had been hired to entertain the guests. One of those guests was Harry Westerham, a likeable cleric who does some of the detective work, along with the industrious Sergeant Ringwood.

Whitechurch makes the point in a preface that he had no idea of the solution to his mystery when he wrote the first chapter. I have to say that I figured out the culprit at an early stage, but it’s a tribute to the author’s light and agreeable style that he kept me interested despite this.

My copy is, in fact, not a musty volume dug out of a second hand stall, but a brand new, nicely produced paperback published by Ostara, a Cambridge-based print-on-demand outfit who have brought back a number of obscure titles – college and clerical crime as well as some good thrillers – and have also reprinted some nice books by splendid modern authors such as Keith Miles and Kate Charles. I am a fan of Ostara, and encourage others to support their enterprise.

9 comments:

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I haven't read this one--and I love country house mysteries. Too funny about the 'needless to say, bearded'. :) Ha! I'll be sure to look for this book.

George said...

I'll have to check Ostara out.

aguja said...

Thank you for yet another interesting post, Martin.

Evan Lewis said...

Interesting that you seem to have spotted the killer before the author did.

vegetableduck said...

White church is definitely a writer from the period who conforms to people's idea of "cozy." Mild, but agreeably mild.

There's one by him, Martin, called The Robbery at Rudwick House, I believe, that seems fantastically rare, so watch out for it! It's the only one I have never seen.

One of Whitechurch's books I recall is marred by the casual antisemitism sometimes seen in book (not just mysteries) of this era. Too bad coming from a minister though--and seemingly a quite genial one!

Anonymous said...

I like Whitechurch -- and always wondered how an Anglican canon like Whitechurch got along with another member of the Detection Club, the Roman Catholic Monsignor Ronald Knox.

Whitechurch's contribution to the Detection Club's round-robin THE FLOATING ADMIRAL is very good. His short story collection, THRILLING STORIES OF THE RAILWAY (1912), is one of the great rarities of detective collecting (I've never seen a copy), but the reprint by Routledge in 1977 is easily obtainable. Doug Greene

Bob Houk said...

A minor correction: Amazon lists his middle name as 'Lorenzo'.

This sounds like something I'll want to try.

lyn said...

I agree with you about Ostara. I'm so pleased they've reprinted Kate Charles & D M Greenwood as well. I love a good clerical mystery.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks very much. Bob, well spotted!
Curt, the Rudwick House story seems only to have been printed in the US. Rather strange.
Doug, good question!! I don't think Sayers was that keen on Knox. She called him 'slipshod'....