Friday, 8 July 2011

Forgotten Book - Crossword Mystery


You know, you just know, when you pick up a book with the title Crossword Mystery that you are in classic Golden Age territory. Yet this 1934 novel by E.R.Punshon, my choice for today's Forgotten Book, has a bit more to offer than the puzzle.

Strangely enough, the flaws of the book concern the puzzle element more than, say, the drawing of characters. The setup is unlikely, with the young policeman Bobby Owen sent to an East Anglian resort after the drowning of a prominent local resident, at the behest of the dead man's brother, who claims that it is a case of murder, but can produce no evidence. Yet Bobby joins his household, masquerading as relative. Suffice to say that it would not happen today. The eponymous crossword is not easy to solve, but the general direction in which the clues pointing is obvious. Similarly, the culprit (because, of course, it does turn out to be a murder case) is easy to spot.

Yet the book does have unexpected merits. There is a funny scene when a developer explains his plans to turn the resort into a British Monte Carlo. And there is a sobering account of life in Nazi Germany which, in 1934, must have been relatively ground-breaking. Most notably of all, the final scene is quite horrific.

A mixed bag, then. Punshon clearly had considerable ability as a crime writer, and he enjoyed success in his day, publishing more than 50 novels. Yet now he is forgotten. I suspect this is because, on the evidence of the books of his that I have read, he often struggled to blend excellent ingredients into a satisfactorily crafted whole. But this book, despite its failings, was one I was glad to read.


8 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Martin - Thanks, as ever, for a very interesting look at a Golden Age forgotten book. This is one I actually wasn't familiar with; I'm glad you found things to like about it even if you found the whole wasn't greater than the sum of the parts.

John said...

Glad you managed to find a copy of this elusive Punshon title. I found Diabolic Candelabra earlier this year, but have yet to read it. Was thinking about Punchon as a possible FFB just this past Wednesday. Synchronicity again.

I purchased an American mystery that has several crossword puzzles in it and after I photocopied the puzzles to solve (none of them had been touched!) I placed the book in a box and forgot about it until today. It's called THE LONG GREEN GAZE by Vincent Fuller. He never wrote another mystery. It's not supposed to be brilliant by any means. I'll try to get to it by the end of the summer...if I can find it again. All these boxes! [sigh]

John said...

And a happy belated birthday, Martin! You can thank Jeff at "the Rap Sheet" for letting the cat out of the bag. Hope it was a good one. Like Jack Benny may you be 39 forever. (Starting this year that's what I'm doing.)

djskrimiblog said...

50 novels? I don´t think I have ever heard about him before though I do enjoy a Golden Age mystery once in a while. Not exactly for horrific endings, but for a nice puzzle :)

Dorte H.

vegetableduck said...

He's a better writer than plotter, generally speaking, but some of his work is well worth reading (Diabolic Candelabra is too).

Martin Edwards said...

Margot, it's a rare one, but still worth a read if you can find it.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, John. I am 39 only in my old author photos!
Look forward to hearing more about the Fuller book in due course.

Martin Edwards said...

Curt, I must track down Diabolic Candelabra. Almost as memorable a title as Vegetable Duck....