In my last post I commented on how many of my Friday Forgotten Book posts were great reads. I also hoped this would continue in these posts during March. Alas the first FFB of the month is not such a read. This book was also published as Some Unknown Hand and was the first of Hamilton’s Inspector Reynolds series. Other than the books Hamilton wrote, not much is known about the author. The introduction in my copy suggests that Hamilton’s writing is in the same sphere as that of Freeman Wills Crofts, which given my feelings on Crofts, made me feel some foreboding to say the least. Yet interestingly the issues which ensue with this read are not entirely the same issues I have with Crofts.
Popular actress, Marjorie Laureen returns to her London apartment. She hopes to share some hot chocolate with theatrical financier, Ivan Lansberg, but instead they both find a dead body in her dining room, the maid having been successfully got out of the way. Laureen recognises the victim, a film actor called Leslie Delmond, who she used to know. Yet she seems to have an awful lot to hide and is unsurprisingly very unhelpful to Inspector Reynolds when he arrives. Though he too is far from affable and is quite antagonistic at times when questioning suspects. The story tracks his investigations, alongside seeing snapshots of the subterfuge Laureen and others are up to, in order to keep something secret – what that is we do not know until the end of the book. There is a missing woman named Valarie to trace, as well as a possible assassin with a missing thumb. A trip to Paris is also in order to pick up more clues for the case.
So as my intro implied and as my final rating shows, this was not a brilliant read. One of the key reasons for this is the sheer amount of time the suspects put in to obstructing the course of justice, for reasons which really didn’t seem worth it. Whilst suspects are expected to obstruct to an extent, Hamilton takes this to extremes, making it feel more like a down right conspiracy and the result is a book which is far longer than it needed to be and unsurprisingly the pacing is affected.
Secondly I don’t think I really warmed to the characters a whole lot. Perhaps their lack of cooperation made them this way. Inspector Reynold is not the most genial of policeman, but even the most hard hearted reader can’t not feel sorry for him as the suspects make the investigation nearly impossible to solve, even putting their own lives at risk in order to hide the truth.
However, given this is a first novel and that the writing style is fairly okay, these issues might have been more forgivable if it hadn’t of been for the solution to the case, which quite frankly is disappointing and somewhat of a cheat. It is solutions like this one which make you think Knox had a point in coming up with the rules that he did, as believe you me this book breaks a few of his. The only things missing were an unknown poison and a secret passage in a building which had no right for possessing one!
Hmm so yeah I think I would take an awful lot of convincing to try one of Hamilton’s books again.
Just the Facts Ma’am (Gold Card): Author you’ve never tried before