29 MAY 1936, Page 28

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Trent's Own Case. By E. C. Bentley and x..iVar:rAer

t .. • Post after Post-Mortem. By E. C. R. Lorac. (Crime Club.

• ' 7s. (id.) The Gloze Papers. By Kenneth Livingston. (Rich and Cowan.

• ; 7a. 6d.) (Constable. 714. 6d.) , The Penrose klyatefy. By Dr Aust* 4renin (Hodder' and

SfouglitAzn. 7s- (a-)

low the Cidek. By J. y: Turner. (Crime Club. ts.

• ar,/ Liver. By Anthony Weymouth. (Arthur Barker. 7s. 6d.) . ghiy Inflammable.. By Mai Saltrnarsh.-. (Michel . Joseph. 7a. 6d.)

The Candle. By Linton C. Hopkins. PlIchael'Joiepli.• 7s. dd".) Wolf's Crag. By David .Whitelaw., (Geoffrey Bl6s. .7s.. 6d),

Mn. BENTLEY is a remarkable phenomenon., Twenty years _ago he wrote Trent's Last Case, in which his urbane 'artistry, pirfect..tioling and tigerish attack established him . as the , ..Ranjitsfaji of 'crime fiction. After that one innings . he .etire(1, to pap up in Biography for Beginners disguised as ' tile most original. comic. poet of his. generation. .And now once again Philip Trent is dragged away from his painting t?) investigate a murder in which two of his friends are involved.

His interest in the crime soon ceases to be purely altruistic, for beside the body of the dead philanthropist he finds.- a razor-blade ,,bearing his own finger-prints ! In the dead Man's pocket a champagne cork is discovered, with which— and several other vintage points—the learned Mr. Allen .deals eruditely. Indeed,, the erudition of these collaborators is so wide and effortles- s that it malies. eiren Mr. Van Dine foiak like a small-town university professor. Trent's Own Case is-perhaps not quite so well knit and perfectly rounded as its .predecessor. But it haS-as ingeniobs a plot, two really wicked characters, the same leisurely Edwardian --wit, the same bouquet—dry and ethereal as a very old brandy : you will

:Mid yourself sipping slowly at this book, postponing as

.lorig as possible the melancholy moment when it be•finished. But the internal glow will remain ; for Trent's :ozOn Case is .another classic of its genre. - • - In Post after Post-Mortent Mr. Lorac presents One of the iiost puzzling problems and in Inspector Macdonald one of

the most sympathetic professional detectives, that I have had the luck to encounter. Ruth Surray, a famous writer, is found dead with sleeping-tablets, a signed will and a last

Vtlft§Oiglijittat*.P044;:liedltfreAefk1144144!AlliteIVs1 Of 'Certain letter, no doubts of suicide could have been entertained : - Ato it is, the murderer nearly gets away with arson-and poison' as well before he is trapped. Mr. Lorac's dialogue, particularly in the early chapters, is rather literary : and why, by the !Way, do we hear no more' about the saekS of paper in the himber-room ? But the prot is exceedingly well developed, the motive is reasonable, and the characters of Ruth Surray's pleasant, ' brilliant, high brow familY', are distinct and coif- Vincing.' Moreover, Mr.'" Loria sprinkles "suspicion Oil round with the light-handed aplomb of a chef preparing his chef-d'oeuvre. In chapter 2 I spotted a deliberate discrepancy of evidence, which ought to have delivered the murderer into my hand : but so well did Mr. Lorac cover his tracks after.- ..,

wards that I did not perceive the significance of this dis-

crepancy till the last chapter. The Gime Papers is another book that can be highly recommended. It is the realist type. detective fiction, and possesses an air of extraordinary verisimilitude. Indeed it is almost as painful reading in

simile places as the accounts of actual crimes. Mr. Livingsbiri • writes excellently, with a painstaking seriousness, a faintly

bitter tang and an uncompromising frankness which :I found most attractive. The frankness with which the sex: motives are disclosed might offend some readers, but it is essential to the realist quality of the tale. Mr. Livingston's' angle on his theme is as original as his treatment is sincere. From the moment when Curtis Gloze is 'found poisoned ins disreputable hotel, the story moves gradually backwards tine, revealing bit by bit a complex of motives, of family +re-Ls and jealousies. and suspicions Which are built up in turn into final tragedy. No attempt is made to puzzle or mils.; li'ad the reader. The conclusion is perhaps unnecessarifir i'ilelodrainatic. But, for its central character alone, thifs Wok would be well worth reading. Dr. Austin- Freeman 41 s•O' justly - popular an author that when he falls below his anal standard—as he does in The Penraso.4Iystery—he ratt4t A-peet searching criticism. On the debit side are : (1) to0

- field - of' Sit SpeetS , IftritSt - far -tot,

• 1,(1.00(046WV. Itfiker-AlifKI-31411046::.410- I■••1:-309; - I tz17.•_. .. surely eontradiet-Tr.-81-5;Th 1-8-18-;-(ayeliche's—bearzra take up' their " nielaftekioly lourden " and proceed in a " gruesome iird- cessidn" ; -(i) a great- deal of unnecessary reiteration ;

(5) pedantry of style, as :

" ThOrndyke was not in the least addicted to the finding cf marea?„. nests- or the- pursuit of: that interesting phenomenon, the

.'8.111-&-tte-iyiii1l." -%* - - -

'an the 'eredire side- we-have' (a) the sort of fog-and-treacle- pudding atmosphere at which Dr. Freeman is the only rival of

Conan Doyle; .(b) a • brilliantly' original place for concealing a

:corpse. . . I liked Below the Clock better' than Mr. Turner's last heoli, Homicide -haven. I 'do Wish, though, that he would aVoill phrases like 't a silence-ladened pause" and " the lips swerved in a carmine spread " ; and while the banter that goesi on between Amos Petrie and Inspector Ripple may 'strike some as excruciatingly funny, to me it seems just excruciating. Also, I doubt if the atmosphere of the House of Commonis quite as farcical -as Mr. Turner suggests.. Be that, as it may, the 'Chancellor .of the Exchequer dies half way through his budget speech.: he has been poisoned by strophanthin. which -kills almost instantly ; yet no trace of strophanthin is

found in the drink he sippedduring the speech. Add that inside knowledge of the budget has' beet used to play tlie• markets

(is Mr. Turner second-sighted ?) and you have the elements of quite a pretty puzzle. Mr. Weymouth also chooses poison, but a more conventional Jay out—The ,hard living - baronet. the hoity-toity sister, the family emeralds, the will, the dear

old butler. Mr. Weymouth's plot, like a pantomime horse, has a beginning and an end but sagsoicvously in the middle. Inspector Treadgold draws some_ neat deductions in tbe Sherlock Holmes manner ; but44 sends "niost of his time making quite fantastic assumptions. and quoting elementary Latin. The whole thing, in fact, is a bit too elementary, My dear Watson.;

Lastly, three pure "thrillers." And any month that produces two thrillers as good as MialutelTlogenfl -has gitasi

us will be a very goodinonth indeed. Mr. Saltmarsh alienate(' me a little at.the. beginning-, Ills licro..is-nue,oflihose chaps who are always getting into "spots of bother" and calling

their enemies " nasty-pieees of werk.7.--44se-, in-the-intevestl of a group- of financiers, he sets out to bomb the Soviet car; tanksiat Ratonm, which-I thought a,,bad show. . spite of all that I 'could not—as they say—prit this lickik. down

Saltmarsh is a disciple of Mr. Buchan and does his master credit. even if he does fall occasionally almost into burlesque, as :

" . . . that wonderful night at the Pavillon Bleu, when the youn Greek was annoying the little French diseuie, and you took- hill and hung him by the trousers from the lamp-bracket over street."

Highly Inflammable contains a Scots bagman a master, criminal with hooded eyes ; any amount' of hairbreadth escapes, dope, graft and diplomats ;. . and a positively new

line in vamps—Anna Nicolaevna i a highbrow" Athene and

an Aphrodite Pandemos rolled. into one. Mr. Saltmarsh has infinite verve . and inventiveness. He promises us a return' fight between his hero and his master-criminal ; and alt who have witnessed this first one will be queuing up for ringside seats. Mr. Hopkins also queers his pitch a bit at the beginning. I distrust Opening chapters in which I am told how diabolical everything is going to be : but in this case the author lives up to his promises. The Candle is full

of thrills, suspense and bloodshed. The plot centres round

a formula wortlt, billions of dollars—and by no Means an im4po;;ilitelfor4ikula either : it is worked out with great- ingenuity and contains an excellent twist at the end, involving two reasonable solutions for the one set of facts. - I cannot be more explicit without giving the whole show away. If you care for wholesale butchery, you will find this little book full of meat : if you cannot stomach lush verbiage, you will approach it cautiously. Wolfs Crag is a slower-moving tale, and

takes too long.to get started up. The villain, descendant of a Cornish pirate, has been driven out of America by a rival gangster and returns to his native heath, where he creates a smuggling' organisation run on the most up-to-date lines. This is a good idea, but Mr. Whitelaw does not get full value

out of it " Woids;!..aa one of his thugs remarks, "don't get a guy no place." Wolf's Crag contains too high a per- centage of woids..iiff*piortion-bri '