Saturday, June 2, 2012

Thou Shell of Death - Nicholas Blake

I had quite grand reading plans at the beginning of the week but work has been hellish (don't doubt that Royal events are good for business - there isn't enough cheap cava in all of Spain to keep my customers happy, which is probably why I get to deal with them miserable) and so I've been binging on Nicholas Blake's. 'Thou Shell Of Death' is Nigel Strangeways second outing, he's lost his tea drinking habit (a shame) and his love of heavy blankets (not such a shame) and is an altogether more series proposition.

The mystery centres around a World War One flying ace - Fergus O'Brian. O'Brian is a press hero due to his daring Biggles like activities during the War and after but someone has been sending him anonymous letters threatening to kill him on boxing day. The result is a classic country house mystery with the full compliment of ill assorted guests (including thumping great blonde) and a rising body count. The twist in the tale is quite intriguing, in more than one way the murderer commits the perfect crime, and although they're eventually unmasked it's arguable that they get away with it too. 

The real pleasure though is in the fun that Cecil Day Lewis is having as Nicholas Blake; I enjoy his moments of  snobbery, especially when they take the form of disparaging comments on grocers port. There are snappy one liners and puns - something else I'm fond of - and generally the book's a really good ride. There are moments which don't bear terribly close inspection in terms of plotting - an over reliance on quite amazing intuition, but it doesn't diminish the fun of it all which I imagine is a direct reflection of how much fun Day-Lewis was having as Blake. I love these books and am delighted to have found them through these reprints. If you like golden age crime these are gold dust. 


  1. I adore Blake's books, and the new covers are so fun. Must make sure I get some before them vanish again!

  2. I'm a total convert Sarah, and have been putting together a wish list. The bottom line is a bit daunting at this point - but he's very entertaining.