Wednesday, December 19, 2018

55. Great Detective Feats by Leonard R. Gribble

I found this at the street sale on Rachel along with two other really enjoyable old mystery paperbacks (Darkness of Slumber and Map of Mistrust).  It was the least interesting and the least attractive aesthetically.  I don't know what 2/6 means in British currency (and what it's value was relative to the time), but given the cheap printing and the back being only ads for other books, I suspect this was an inexpensive read.  None of the names meant anything to me either.  It is a collection of 5 short detective stories.  I guess Gribble was well known for his Inspect Slade series (at least that's what it vaunts on the inside back cover).

Likewise, as I started reading the first story, I was worried it was going to be a slog to get through.  The premise itself was good, a restauranter in France (sometime in the late 19th century) finds a leg wrapped up in the well in his backyard.  The prose style and the way the story was laid out was very odd. It took me until about halfway through the second story to realize there was no dialogue.  These are basically narrated retellings with some embellishment but all done in the omniscient third person.  I think that all the stories may actually be real.  Once I cottoned to this, I enjoyed the book much more.  The crimes are all quite mundane and the detective work realistic (going through files, sending out letters, canvassing hundreds of people) and it made for some fairly enjoyable and interesting reading.  The morality is very black and white, but not vociferous.  The stories take place in a variety of times and places.  I was pleased to see the last story takes place in Berkeley in the 30's and is about a chemist who was working on an artificial silk when his lab in Walnut Creek blew up.

I think this book is the equivalent of one of those true crime books, but a lot less lurid (at least in the telling, the crimes themselves are quite nasty, though never sexual).  Solidly moral with constant applauding of excellent detective work but ultimately selling because people want to read about the crimes.

There was also this great passage, a little British dig at American law enforcement:
He was what is termed on the western side of the Atlantic a tough guy. Men like him and of his calibre created Chicago's dark history.  As a matter of fact, in features Kennedy was not unlike the celebrated Irish Chicaglo gangster overlord, Spike O'Donnell.  In the metropolis of the Middle West Kennedy would have flourished.  In England he did not flourish--Scotland Yard saw to that.

1 comment:

Kate McDonnell said...

2/6 is two shillings and sixpence. Probably something like 60 to 75 cents on a paperback in North America at the time.