British Crime Classics Challenge Update: The Good and the Bad

Sometimes, you read a long-forgotten book and you wonder how it could ever be ignored. And then you read others and wonder why they were rescued.

Here, I have an example of each. Guess which is which.

The Strange Case of Harriet Hall by Dalton Moray

Invited to visit an aunt she had only just met, Amy arrives in the village of Larnwood to find Aunt Harriet’s cottage empty and that mentioning her name is enough to make the nice young man she met on the train bolt in the opposite direction. And then Aunt Harriet turns up dead. At the bottom of a well.

I found this one a bit weird, and the ending quite unsatisfactory. It just felt like there were a lot of loose ends not properly tied up, and I’m still not wholly sure what happened. (OK, it’s a bit harsh to wonder why this was rescued, but I wouldn’t reread it, which is my main criterion for whether a book is good or not.)

Smallbone Deceased by Michael Gilbert

The highly respected legal firm of Horniman, Birley and Craine are just recovering from the (natural) death of Horniman Snr when a deed box is opened, to reveal a corpse. And it looks like an inside job. Can Inspector Hazlerigg, assisted by the so-recently-employed-it-couldn’t-have-been-him Henry Bohun, work out who, why and how?

This one I’ve had on my list to read for a month or two, because it sounded fun. It didn’t disappoint. It was entertaining and witty from the start. I do like snarky sorts of comments from the narrator, as well as from the characters. No doubt Gilbert drew on his experiences as a London lawyer for a lot of the personalities, though perhaps not for the murder.

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