No Tears for Hilda (1950) by Andrew Garve

Vintage Mystery Scavenger Hunt Item: Magnifying Glass

I initially thought this was my first encounter with this author, but a little googling later and I realised I had actually come across him before, writing as Roger Bax. As well as these two pennames he had a third, Paul Somers, which is the closest to his real name Paul Winterton. As well as being a crime novelist he was also a journalist and was one of the founding members of the Crime Writer’s Association.

no-tears-for-hilda

No Tears for Hilda (1950) opens well with the police arriving at George Lambert’s home. Initially they are very sympathetic with George, with first impressions looking as though his wife, Hilda, has committed suicide. Yet this sympathy soon morphs into suspicion when a bruise is found on the back of Hilda’s neck. The circumstantial evidence soon becomes pretty damning against George: misfortunately placed fingerprints, a poor alibi and it is also quickly discovered that he was having an affair with one of the nurses looking after his daughter, Jane, who has been admitted to a mental hospital after a breakdown. Even worse, if things could be much worse, it seems impossible to find any other suspect. Hilda led a very quiet and colourless life, according to George. Although Inspector Haines is not entirely satisfied he has little choice but to arrest George. It is in to this set of circumstances that George’s friend, Max Easterbrook, arrives on leave from Germany, where he works for the International Refugee Organisation.

Max is convinced that somewhere in Hilda’s past, either recent or long ago, there is a reason why someone would have wanted to murder her. The blameless image of Hilda begins to falter when Max visits Jane and hears from the doctor the reasons for her breakdown and current problems. As Max digs further and further into Hilda’s life, interviewing Hilda’s relations and scant acquaintances it quickly becomes apparent that George’s viewpoint of Hilda is fallible to say the least and quite frankly untenable. The reader soon begins to wonder why Hilda didn’t get bumped off sooner. Yet despite all of Max’s hard work, there is little if anything to suggest the killer wasn’t George and in fact Max’s work only seems to give George even more of a motive for killing his wife. A chink of light finally appears in this impenetrable case, but before it is over Max will find that detective work and the deliverance of justice is a far messier and complicated business than it may seem.

This was definitely an entertaining mystery, even if the mystery element itself was not the most complicated. Yet despite the simplicity of the case (which is more influenced by the plot type than anything else), Garve wrote it very well and his characterisation skills are definitely worth the read. The key to solving the murder of Hilda is understanding who she really was, as we quickly get to see that George is not particularly reliable in this area and I think Garve executes this aspect of the book effectively and enjoyably for the reader. I really felt like I got to know Hilda and in fact the victim’s character is probably the most focused on. Yet I also think the other characters are well-drawn and convincingly depicted, especially psychologically. Hilda I think although appearing colourless at the beginning of the book, is actually one of crime fiction’s most sinister victims. Normally in crime fiction, particularly golden age detective fiction, the victim is rich and openly obnoxious, dictator-like or generally insufferable. But what makes Hilda more chilling is the subterfuge she creates around her awful behaviour, hurting her own victims all the more because they feel powerless to react and speak out. The ending of the book is also very fitting, predictable in some respects, but also surprising in others. Finally Max made a good amateur sleuthing figure as he has a degree of naivety and fallibility which makes him more interesting as a character. He is not the perfect hero. So if you haven’t tried Garve’s work yet then I’d definitely recommend you do. If anyone has read any of his other books I would be interested in hearing which ones are the good ones and which ones should be avoided, as he is an author I would like to try more of.

Rating: 4.25/5

Advertisements

About armchairreviewer

Qualified English teacher, with a passion for literature and crime fiction. On a random note I also own pygmy goats and chickens with afros (it doesn't get any cooler than that).
This entry was posted in In the dock and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to No Tears for Hilda (1950) by Andrew Garve

  1. JFW says:

    Thanks for the review, and it’s nice to know that it’s a good read, as I have it on the metaphorical TBR pile (ie, on my Kindle). 🙂 Though strangely the cover is a different one, despite my copy also being the Arcturus Crime Classics copy…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fran Peters says:

    I have never read a bad Garve book and I’ve read just about all of them.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. jjh says:

    Andrew Garve was primarily an ingenious plotsmith, especially in his later books. Strongly recommended are Home to Roost (1974), The File on Lester (1972), The Long Short Cut (1968), The Sea Monks (1963), The Megstone Plot (1956) and one of his early ones Blueprint for Murder (1948, reissued recently). A recurrent theme is unbreakable alibis and how they get broken. He spoke fluent Russian and spent much of WWII in Moscow. Many of his books reflect his increasing disillusion with communism., especially The Ashes of Loda (1965) and The Ascent of D13 (1969).

    Liked by 2 people

    • Seems like you have read quite a few of his. I have read Blueprint for Murder. Can’t remember much about it though. The File on Lester has been recommended to me by quite a few people elsewhere on the web so that may well be my next Garve read. Thanks for your tips.

      Like

  4. I have always quite enjoyed his books, without feeling the need to rush to read another. I remembered the Galloway Case with positive feelings, but when I checked on very old blogpost, that was because I’d found a wonderful picture! Take a look – I’m not SO keen on the book http://clothesinbooks.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/the-galloway-case-by-andrew-garve.html
    Hilda – it’s such a 50s name isn’t it? Can’t imagine a modern character being called that.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Grim Pickings (1987) by Jennifer Rowe | crossexaminingcrime

  6. Pingback: Book of the Month: January 2017 | crossexaminingcrime

  7. Pingback: Tuesday Night Bloggers: Helen’s Month: Murder in Moscow (1951) by Andrew Garve | crossexaminingcrime

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s