Source: Review Copy (British Library Classic Thrillers)
I was quite intrigued when this book arrived in the post, as I had not been expecting it and I had never come across George Sims before. The intrigue continued when in the introduction written by Martin Edwards, Martin described this book as: ‘an enjoyable thriller with a striking twist that comes, not in the final chapter, but a mere one-third of the way through. This unusual feature typifies the unorthodox nature of George Sim’s writing. His stories are as unpredictable in structure as they are in plot.’ Always willing to try a book if it is out of the ordinary, I decided to give this one a go. Sims’ life seems to have influenced his writing, as his work in the antiques and antiquarian book trade, his time working in Intelligence during the war and his time as a boxer all make their way into his stories.
The story begins with Leo Selver attempting to win over the much younger Judith Latimer. Although he is married, the death of their son, meant he and his wife drifted apart. This might seem quite a conventional narrative trope, but I think Sims goes beyond the surface and explores the area more deeply, looking at the conflicting attitudes within Leo himself. Into the midst of this confusion comes a phone call, another sinister anonymous phone call which is putting Leo under the a great deal of strain and even worse he cannot get in contact with his friend Sidney Chard (we soon know why). Bit by bit we find out what he and Sidney have been getting up to and how such actions are now reaping very bad and fateful consequences. Things reach a crisis point for Leo when he becomes the prime suspect in Judy’s death. But can an old friend’s son, Ed Buchanan help to uncover the truth?
To be honest despite going into this book with the best of expectations, I don’t think I am quite the right reader for this book. I think this is a novel with a potentially interesting thriller plot, as it is by no means a run of the mill storyline, but I found my attention flagging a lot after the first third of the story. The first third of the story is strong and typographically unusual as file reports on two of the main characters are inserted into the narrative. The oppressive weather in the story adds to the rising tension levels. We also find in the narrative periods where we are see things from the point of the view from a sinister and unknown Mr X. The tale flits from different characters’ lives, which is normally a narrative technique I enjoy, but I found this time round I couldn’t get as engaged with them. Ed Buchanan seems a nice enough person, one of life’s wanderers, who has gone from career to career, but he was not someone I could hugely invest in. His exploration in to the demise of Judy and all the other peculiar events which have been going on dragged for me and they didn’t really reveal a whole lot of information. It almost feels like the solution bumps into Ed at the end of the book. The motivation behind everything going on is good and one which I enjoyed, but I don’t think I like how it was meshed into the story. Sims writes with a strong sense of time and place, making nods to contemporary culture, but I think it was partially Sims’ descriptive powers which put me off the story a bit, as I found it too descriptive and felt the pace suffered as a consequence.
So I’m glad I tried Sims as I had not across him before but not sure I am the right reader for his work. But fans of 1960s and 70s thrillers should definitely give him a try.
Vintage Mystery Scavenger Hunt Item (Silver Card): Building other than a house