17 MARCH 1967, Page 15

Murderers all


This month's batch of crime novels is pretty diverse and rather more deductive-slanted than usual. A fine example of an oblique murder mystery is Lonely Heart 4122 by Colin Watson (Eyre and Spottiswoode 21s). In provincial Flaxborough two marriage bureau lady mem- bers disappear. What connection has Lonely Heart 4122—identifying a retired naval com- mander and a bureau member—with Miss Teatime, also playing the same game? Inspec- tor Purbright has quite a problem to solve. Colin Watson, whose crime stories are unfor- tunately all too rare, purposefully, wittily and ingeniously executes a tour de force in this

very• good comedy whodunit. Death's Bright Dart by V. C. Clinton-Baddeley (Gollancz I 8, is a first thriller by 'VC' and is a vet.% promising offering. Dr Davie, elderly Cam- bridge don, investigates and solves the murde: of a psychologist at a symposium at St Nicholas's -College. A plot expounded and executed in erudite manner. Nice colourful settings in Cambridge, London and Ischia with pertinent atmosphere assist in making this an engrossing and very credible story. Distinctive, and conscientiously applied.

Bound to Die by Bill Turner (Constable 21s) is another first crime novel. The schoolgirl daughter of a photographer's model is strangled by a man with red hair. Colin Marr, a young unemployed ex-journalist with red hair, natur- ally qualifies as Suspect No. 1. Also involved is a nasty, curious Fleet Street pseudo-inves- tigator, but after 'further evidence has come to light' it is patent that Marr is not the villain of the piece. Written with verve and assurance but a little bestrewn with contrivance here and there. Nevertheless competent, and the killer is not divulged until the last few pages. Quite an auspicious debut.

Last, Murder Fantastical by Patricia Moyes (Crime Club 16s). I would vote this the best • of the bunch. A heartily disliked bookmaker is shot dead in the grounds of Cregwell Grange, home of the Manciple family, who all appear to be super-eccentrics, particu- larly the bishop, whose behaviour is most . unorthodox to say the least. Miss Moyes is imbued with the knack of skilfully combining humour with murder in this very ingenious, highly diverting and dexterously-written novel.