Friday’s Forgotten Book: Cross Purposes (1976) by Henry Cecil

I tried out Cecil’s work earlier this year and decided I definitely wanted to try more by him. So of course it has taken months for me to get around to it. But I’m here at last! The first part of today’s read introduces the reader to a middle aged librarian called Douglas Barton, who is struggling to make ends meet, whilst maintaining the “essentials” of life. Early on his path crosses with a newly released prisoner, Edwards Livermore, who has been put away many times for fraud. He is keen to start afresh and is even keener that his new life should include Barton and his family. Alarm bells will probably start ringing at this point, but he eventually worms his way in, just in time for when Douglas’ wife wins the football pools, gaining the top prize of £500,000. Having not ticked the no publicity box on the coupon, the Bartons are in for a barrage of begging requests, though this transpires to be the least of their new found difficulties…

Overall Thoughts

Looking back at my synopsis of the book I think I might have actually written it in such a way that it gives the impression that this is a much more interesting and action packed story than it actually is. To be honest, I was a bit disappointed in this book. It begins well and introduces a number of threads early on, but unfortunately the most interesting of these are never developed. I enjoyed how Douglas is introduced into the book through a hypothetical who’s who entry and I equally enjoyed the introduction of the scrounging neighbour, who knows they are struggling financially but continues to scrounge for the kick it gives him. Instead of interesting developments though, we get a very long look at what it is like to win a lot of money. Yet of course our well intentioned Bartons are not going to do anything exciting with this money, so despite Cecil having a good writing style, this picture of post win life soon begins to wear thin on the reader and our protagonists’ naivety becomes grating. Consequently the story lacks a lot of oomph in the middle. Near the end we get an unusual punch line but Cecil unfortunately undermines its impact by continuing the story for another 30 pages which brings this book to a sickly sweet end. So unfortunately my return to Cecil has not been a good one, but I don’t think I will give up on his work just yet.

Rating: 3.5/5


  1. If it’s any help, I enjoyed one or more of the law-practice Cecil books (the ones with “…In Law” in the title). I think they’re a little earlier?

    Liked by 1 person

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