Source: Review Copy (Ipso)
Hull is an author I have enjoyed reading from my very first encounter with his book The Murder of my Aunt (1934). On the blog in the past year I have also reviewed Keep It Quiet (1935) and Excellent Intentions (1938). Yet after these two reviews I was a little bit stumped, as Hull’s other titles were far from easy to procure and certainly not cheaply. So I was very excited when Ipso reprinted today’s read, with other Hull titles in the offing in the future. In the main Hull’s style of mystery writing lies within the inverted form and his stories invariably have a big sting in their tail for one or other of the characters. Today’s read is no different, though I think Hull certainly takes the inverted form and the trope of unreliable narrator to whole new and highly enjoyable levels.
Given the inverted format of the book I’ll try to be sparing with my details concerning the plot. So in a nutshell the story begins with Nicholas Latimer, one of three directors at an Advertising Agency called NeO-aD. He is increasingly feeling infuriated towards one of the other directors, believing him to be a burden on the company and the likely source of it failing. Of course Latimer initially tries more orthodox routes for ousting him, but what will he do when he realises they won’t work? Well you’ll have to read it and find out…
With this sort of plot, it is natural for the reader to try and predict how things will turn out and what direction events will ultimately take. In fact I would suggest that Hull heavily encourages us in this, as of course he so beautifully leads us up the garden path with our own predictions. Having read a number of inverted mysteries I had some ideas as to how things might turn out, yet I was happily proven wrong in a number of respects, as I think Hull is good at unleashing unexpected twists and surprises on the reader; another reason why I was careful that my synopsis wouldn’t even hint at them. The success of this book rests a lot on its structure and narrative voice, as both these elements, combined with the story’s characterisation, skilfully influence the reader’s viewpoint on events. I think I am safe in saying that this is a novel in which the author very cleverly plays around with our sympathies, making us wonder which character(s) we should be siding with and who we can trust to be telling the truth. The advertising agency setting was a successful choice for Dorothy L Sayers in Murder Must Advertise (1933) and C. S. Forester’s Plain Murder (1930) and I can say the same is the case for Hull, though I found his depiction of such a work place quite different to the other two. As with other mysteries by Hull you can rely on him for the unexpected in his endings and this one doesn’t disappoint. It definitely got a big thumbs up from me. A sneaky look at my final rating will reveal that this is a thumbs up all around for the book and is one that I unsurprisingly strongly recommend.
Just the Facts Ma’am (Silver Card): Artist