Death By Appointment (1945) by James Corbett

Corbett is a mystery writer who is not well known today, though from 1929 to 1951 he published over 40 mystery novels. Although I didn’t spot any in this book, Corbett is meant to be remembered for his ‘spectacular misuse of language’ – according to the website Gadetection. Examples include: ‘He was like a fish in deep water,’ ‘It was like looking for an ostrich in a forest of monkeys’ and ‘Pritchard sat up like a full-blown geranium.’

Death By Appointment (1945) begins with a barrister named Roger Templeton going to visit a diamond expert called Arthur Lamport at his offices late one night. Although he confirmed the appointment over telephone, Templeton is rudely shown the door by Lamport when he arrives, giving indications that he is expecting someone else. Puzzled by this curious behaviour Templeton returns with his friend David Trent, an amateur criminologist. Yet on their returns they find Lamport murdered in the disused shop beneath the office. Given that this is not the first time Trent and Templeton have come across a dead body they soon swing into action calling their good friend Inspector Mordant of Scotland Yard. However, Templeton’s role in the story comes to an end at this junction, with his place in the crime fighting triumvirate being occupied by keen newspaper reporter Eileen Astor. There are various leads for them to follow up such as the suspicious caretaker and a mysterious man with an American accent, as well as the disappearance of Lamport’s clerk. The solution though is not quickly or easily found as they encounter many a dead end before the more thriller-like denouement is reached.

I don’t really have a lot to say about this read (which may or may not be a relief to you). It is a pleasant enough police led mystery, with the accompaniment of amateur sleuths in Astor and Trent. The characterisation is lightly done, with no surprises or unusual quirks, though the sleuthing trio are agreeable. The plot moves along nicely in the first two-thirds, but unfortunately the final third drags and feels somewhat repetitive. Equally the solution itself can be deduced sometime before it happens and the ending itself did feel somewhat reminiscent of a brusque stereotypical B movie thriller. Consequently I don’t feel I’ll be returning to Corbett anytime soon, though do let me know if there is a really good entry in his oeuvre.

Rating: 3.25/5

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