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.