Day: February 29, 2020

My Book Notes: Gallows Court, 2018 by Martin Edwards

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Head of Zeus, 2018. Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 1094 KB. Print Length: 368 pages. ASIN: B079GXJPC8 eISBN: 978-1-78854-606-5. First published in the United Kingdom in 2018.

9781788546072Plot Summary: London, 1930. Sooty, sulphurous, and malign: no woman should be out on a night like this. A spate of violent deaths – the details too foul to print – has horrified the capital and the smog-bound streets are deserted. But Rachel Savernake is no ordinary woman. To Scotland Yard’s embarrassment, she solved the Chorus Girl Murder, and now she’s on the trail of another killer. Jacob Flint, manning The Clarion‘s crime desk, is looking for the scoop that will make his name. He’s certain there is more to the Miss Savernake’s amateur sleuthing than meets the eye. Flint’s pursuit of his story will mire him ever-deeper into a labyrinth of deception and corruption. Murder-by-murder, he is swept ever-closer to that ancient place of execution, where it all began and where it will finally end: Gallows Court.

My Take: Martin Edwards, in his last published novel, makes an unusual incursion in a different genre to which he has accustomed us to, coming out successfully of this challenge. Gallows Court is is fact more a thriller than a detective story. The action unfolds in London 1930, although throughout the story some fragments of a diary written back in 1919 are inserted, whose full meaning will not be known until the end. The story plot turns out difficult to summarised  for fear of revealing too much. Suffice is to say that Rachel Savernake, after the death of her father Judge Savernake, has inherited his immense wealth and has relocated herself to living in London. When the story opens, a young reporter by the name of Jacob Flint attempts to address her to ask her whether it’s unsafe for a lady to be out while a brutal killer prowls the London streets. But to his surprise, he finds out that Miss Savernake is very well informed about him. Before arriving in London last autumn, Flint learned his trade as a reporter in Yorkshire. He lodges in Amwell Street and worries that his landlady’s daughter seeks to trade her body for marriage. His ambition drove him to join The Clarion rather than a respectable newspaper. Though his editor admires his persistence, he worries about his rashness. Apparently he has a morbid taste in crime and regards Thomas Betts’ recent accident as both a misfortune and an opportunity. With The Clarion’s chief crime reporter on his death bed, he seeks a chance of making himself a name. And she ends saying: ‘Be careful what you wish for. If Wall Street can crumble, so can anything. How unfortunate if you promising career were cut short, like his.’

During the course of their encounter, Flint realises that Miss Savernake does not deny her participation in solving the Chorus Girl case and openly asks her what does she make of the latest sensation, the butchering of poor Mary-Jane Hayes in Convent Garden? The arrival of Miss Savernake car interrupts their conversation and once she settles herself in the back of her Rolls-Royce Phantom, she asks herself whether Flint might prove to be of some use to her. It might be risky, but she’d never been afraid to gamble. It was in her blood.

I’ve much enjoyed reading Gallows Court. The story is perfectly crafted, the plot is absorbing and the mystery is sufficiently complex as to capture the reader’s attention from the first pages. Intrigue and suspense continually increases as the story unfolds, and Martin Edwards seems to exercise as an illusionist showing, in front of his audience, that things are not always what they appear to be. At one point, when everything begins to make sense, the story takes a new turn leading the reader back again to an uncharted ground until it finally all fits into place. Knowing the author, it can’t came as a surprise to us to find references and winks to several authors of the Golden Age of Detection, which will undoubtedly increase our enjoyment.  If we add to all these that the main characters are well-defined, the end result is that we are in the presence of a superb novel that I highly recommended.

My Rating: A+ (Don’t delay, get your hands on a copy of this book)

Gallows Court has been reviewed, among others, at Bedford Bookshelf, Books Please, Kittling: Books, Crossexamining Crime, In Search Of the Classic Mystery Novel, Shots Magazine, My Reader’s Block, Crimepieces, Crime Squad, Clothes in Books, and Cleopatra Loves Books.

About the Author: Martin Edwards’ latest novel, Gallows Court, was published in September 2018. He is consultant to the British Library’s Crime Classics series, and has written sixteen contemporary whodunits, including The Coffin Trail, which was shortlisted for the Theakston’s Prize for best crime novel of the year. His genre study The Golden Age of Murder won the Edgar, Agatha, H.R.F. Keating and Macavity awards, while The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books has been nominated for two awards in the UK and three in the US. Editor of 38 anthologies, he has also won the CWA Short Story Dagger and the CWA Margery Allingham Prize, and been nominated for an Anthony, the CWA Dagger in the Library, the CWA John Creasey Memorial Dagger, and a CWA Gold Dagger. He is President of the Detection Club and Chair of the Crime Writers’ Association, and Archivist of both organisations. He has received the Red Herring award for services to the CWA, and the Poirot award for his outstanding contribution to the crime genre. Upon finishing reading this book, I heard the news that Martin Edwards has been awarded with the 2020 CWA Diamond Dagger for “sustained excellence making significant contributions to crime writing”. Edwards joins authors recognised with the Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) accolade, including Ruth Rendell, Lee Child, Ann Cleeves, Ian Rankin, P D James, Colin Dexter, Reginald Hill, Lindsey Davis, Peter Lovesey, and John Le Carré.

Head of Zeus publicity page

Poisoned Pen Press publicity page

Martin Edwards Website

Audible 

Book Launch for Gallows Court by Martin Edwards 

Gallows Court: Martin Edwards talks to Crime Time

Gallows Court, de Martin Edwards

Resumen: Londres, 1930. Grisáceo, sulfuroso y maligno: ninguna mujer debería salir en una noche como esta. Una oleada de muertes violentas (cuyos detalles son demasiado horribles para publicarse) ha horrorizado a la capital y las calles llenas de smog se encuentran desiertas. Pero Rachel Savernake no es una mujer común. Para vergüenza de Scotland Yard, resolvió el asesinato de Chorus Girl, y ahora está siguiendo la pista de otro asesino. Jacob Flint, que se encarga de la mesa de homicidios de The Clarion, está buscando la primicia que le de nombre. Está seguro de que hay algo más de lo que parece en la afición investigadora de la señorita Savernake. La búsqueda de su historia por parte de Flint lo hundirá cada vez más en un laberinto de engaño y corrupción. Asesinato tras asesinato, se verá arrastrado cada vez más cerca de ese antiguo lugar de ejecución, donde todo comenzó y donde finalmente terminará: Gallows Court.

Mi opinión: Martin Edwards, en su última novela publicada, hace una incursión inusual en un género diferente al que nos ha acostumbrado, saliendo con éxito de este desafío. Gallows Court es, de hecho, más un thriller que una historia de detectives. La acción se desarrolla en Londres 1930, aunque a lo largo de la historia se insertan algunos fragmentos de un diario escrito en 1919, cuyo significado completo no se conocerá hasta el final. La trama de la historia resulta difícil de resumir por miedo a revelar demasiado. Basta decir que Rachel Savernake, después de la muerte de su padre, el juez Savernake, ha heredado su inmensa fortuna y se ha trasladado a vivir en Londres. Cuando comienza la historia, un joven periodista llamado Jacob Flint intenta dirigirse a ella para preguntarle si no es seguro que una mujer salga mientras un asesino brutal merodea por las calles de Londres. Pero para su sorpresa, descubre que la señorita Savernake está muy bien informada sobre él. Antes de llegar a Londres el otoño pasado, Flint aprendió su oficio como reportero en Yorkshire. Se aloja en la calle Amwell y le preocupa que la hija de su casera busque cambiar su cuerpo por un matrimonio. Su ambición lo llevó a unirse a The Clarion en lugar de a un periódico respetable. Aunque su editor admira su persistencia, le preocupa su imprudencia. Aparentemente tiene un gusto mórbido por el crimen y considera el reciente accidente de Thomas Betts como una desgracia y una oportunidad. Con el principal reportero de homicidios de The Clarion en su lecho de muerte, busca la oportunidad de hacerse un nombre. Y ella termina diciendo: “Ten cuidado con lo que deseas. Si Wall Street puede derrumbarse, también puede derrumbarse cualquier cosa. Qué desafortunado serías si tu prometedora carrera se viera interrumpida, como la suya“.

Durante el transcurso de su encuentro, Flint se da cuenta de que la señorita Savernake no niega su participación en la resolución del caso de Chorus Girl y abiertamente le pregunta qué piensa de la última sensación, la carnicería de la pobre Mary-Jane Hayes en Convent Garden. La llegada del auto de Miss Savernake interrumpe su conversación y una vez que se acomoda en la parte trasera de su Rolls-Royce Phantom, se pregunta si Flint podría serle a ella de alguna utilidad. Podría ser arriesgado, pero nunca había tenido miedo de jugar. Estaba en su sangre.

Me ha encantado leer Gallows Court. La historia está perfectamente elaborada, la trama es absorbente y el misterio es lo suficientemente complejo como para captar la atención del lector desde las primeras páginas. La intriga y el suspenso aumentan continuamente a medida que se desarrolla la historia, y Martin Edwards parece ejercer como un ilusionista que muestra, frente a su audiencia, que las cosas no siempre son lo que parecen ser. En un momento, cuando todo comienza a tener sentido, la historia toma un nuevo giro que lleva al lector nuevamente a un terreno desconocido hasta que finalmente todo encaja en su lugar. Conociendo al autor, no puede sorprendernos encontrar referencias y guiños a varios autores de la Edad de Oro de la novela policiaca, lo que sin duda aumentará nuestro disfrute. Si agregamos a todo esto que los personajes principales están bien definidos, el resultado final es que estamos en presencia de una excelente novela que recomiendo encarecidamente.


Mi valoración
: A+ (No se demore, consiga un ejemplar de este libro)

Sobre el autor: La última novela de Martin Edwards, Gallows Court, se publicó en septiembre 2018. Es consultor de la serie Crime Classics de la Biblioteca Británica, y ha escrito dieciséis whodunits contemporáneos, incluido The Coffin Trail, que fue preseleccionado para el Premio Theakston’s a la mejor novela policial del año. Su estudio del  género The Golden Age of Murder ganó los premios Edgar, Agatha, H.R.F. Keating y Macavity, mientras que The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books ha sido nominada para dos premios en el Reino Unido y tres en los Estados Unidos. Editor de 38 antologías, también ganó el CWA Short Story Dagger y el CWA Margery Allingham Prize, y ha sido nominado al Anthony, CWA Dagger in the Library, CWA John Creasey Memorial Dagger, y al CWA Gold Dagger. Es Presidente del Detection Club y preside la Crime Writers’ Association, ejerciendo de archivero en ambas organizaciones. Ha recibido el premio Red Herring por los servicios prestados a la CWA y el premio Poirot por su destacada contribución al género. Al terminar de leer este libro, escuché la noticia de que Martin Edwards ha sido galardonado con la Daga de Diamante 2020 de la CWA por la “sostenida excelencia de su significativa contribución a la novela policial”.  Edwards se une así a otros autores reconocidos con el galardón de la Asociación de Escritores de Crímenes (CWA), entre los que se incluyen Ruth Rendell, Lee Child, Ann Cleeves, Ian Rankin, P D James, Colin Dexter, Reginald Hill, Lindsey Davis, Peter Lovesey y John Le Carré.

Cecil John Charles Street, MC, OBE, (1884 – 1964)

c-j-c-streetJohn Rhode was one pseudonym used by the prolific English author Cecil John Charles Street (1884-1964) who also wrote as Miles Burton and Cecil Waye. Street’s two main series are the Dr Lancelot Priestley books under the Rhode name, and the Desmond Merrion/Inspector Henry Arnold books under the Burton name. The Priestley books are classics of scientific detection, with the elderly Dr Priestley demonstrating how apparently impossible crimes have been carried out. Priestley ages through the series and by the last books must be well into his eighties, but his faculties are unimpaired. The Burton series are more traditional detective fiction with the addition of chases and the occasional romance; in fact the hero, amateur investigator Desmond Merrion, meets his wife in the first, The Secret of High Eldersham (1930). (Source: gadetection)

John Rhode, born as Cecil John Charles Street and also known as John Street, was extremely reticent about his private life. He refused to be listed in Who’s Who, and many reference works do not give the exact date of his birth or death (several are in error about the year of his death). An indication of how secretive a person Street was and how carefully he separated his various personalities is the fact that he used the title Up the Garden Path for both a Burton book published in 1941 and a Rhode book published in 1949. He even invented a fictitious year of birth for Burton, whose books he never admitted were his. He is said to have been a career officer, a major, in the British army and a field officer in both World War I and World War II. Awarded the Order of the British Empire, he also received a Military Cross, a fairly high distinction. Street’s firsthand experience of war may perhaps even be credited with directing him to literary pursuits because his first few books were studies of gunnery and a war novel (The Worldly Hope, 1917) published under the pseudonym F.O.O. (for Forward Observation Officer) while World War I was still being fought. Curiously, no trace of Street appears in Quarterly Army List of this period or of later periods. Immediately after the war, he tried his hand at thrillers before launching his two highly successful series. Between the wars, Street was stationed in Ireland and Central Europe, and while maintaining a steady production of two novels a year in each of his series, he also published a number of political works that grew out of his firsthand experience. His intelligence experience during World War II was put to use in such Desmond Merrion novels of the war years as Up the Garden Path and Situation Vacant (1946). He continued to write at a steady pace into his seventies and died at a hospital near his Seaford home in Sussex. (Source: “Cecil John Charles Street – Biography” Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition Ed. Carl Rollyson. eNotes.com, Inc. 2008 eNotes.com 29 Feb, 2020 http://www.enotes.com/topics/cecil-john-charles-street#biography-biography-3424)

After the publication in 1925 of The Paddington Mystery, over the next thirty-five years, John Street would produce, primarily under two pseudonyms, John Rhode and Miles Barton, 143 mystery novels (mostly classical tales of detection), an average rate of four a year. In 1930 Street became one of the founding members od England’s Detection Club, and he remained active in the group for two decades. His greatest friend in the Club, John Dickson Carr and Lucy Beatrice Malleson (who wrote as Anthony Gilbert) remembered him warmly.

Selected Bibliography: (Source: Masters of the “Humdrum” Mystery by Curtis Evans)

As John Rhode: The Paddington Mystery (1925); Dr Priestley’s Quest (1926); The Ellerby Case (1927); The Murders in Praed Street (1928); The House on Tollard Ridge (1929); The Davidson Case aka Murder at Bratton Grange (1929); Pinehurst (1930) aka Dr. Priestley Investigates; The Hanging Woman (1931); Dead Men at the Folly (1932); The Motor Rally Mystery (1933) aka Dr. Priestley Lays a Trap; The Claverton Mystery (1933) aka The Claverton Affair; The Venner Crime (1933); The Robthorne Mystery (1934); Poison for One (1934); Shot at Dawn (1934); The Corpse in the Car (1935); Hendon’s First Case (1935); Mystery at Olympia (1935) aka Murder at the Motor Show; Death in the Hopfields (1937) aka The Harvest Murder; Death on the Board (1937) aka Death Sits on the Board; Proceed with Caution (1937) aka Body Unidentified; Invisible Weapons (1938); The Bloody Tower (1938) aka The Tower of Evil; Death Pays a Dividend (1939); Death on Sunday (1939) aka The Elm Tree Murder; Death on the Boat Train (1940); Death at the Helm (1941); They Watched by Night (1941) aka Signal For Death; Dead on the Track (1943); Men Die at Cyprus Lodge (1943); Vegetable Duck (1944) aka Too Many Suspects; The Lake House (1946) aka The Secret of the Lake House; Death in Harley Street (1946); The Paper Bag (1948) aka The Links in the Chain; The Telephone Call (1948) aka Shadow of an Alibi; Blackthorn House (1949); The Two Graphs (1950) aka Double Identities; Family Affairs (1950) aka The Last Suspect; The Secret Meeting (1951); Death at the Dance (1952); Death at the Inn (1953) aka The Case of Forty Thieves; The Dovebury Murders (1954); and Licenced for Murder (1958). (In bold letters the novels on my TBR shelves)

As Miles Burton: The Secret of High Eldersham (1930) aka The Mystery of High Eldersham; Death of Mr Gantley (1931); To Catch a Thief (1934); The Devereux Court Mystery (1935); Death in the Tunnel (1936) aka Dark is the Tunnel; Murder of a Chemist (1936); Where is Barbara Prentice? (1936) aka The Clue of the Silver Cellar; Death at the Club (1937) aka The Clue of the Fourteen Keys; The Platinum Cat (1938); Death Leaves No Card (1939); Mr Babbacombe Dies (1939); Mr Westerby Missing (1940); Up the Garden Path (1941) aka Death Visits Downspring; Murder, MD (1943) aka Who Killed The Doctor; The Three Corpse Trick (1944); Not a Leg to Stand On (1945); The Cat Jumps (1946); Situation Vacant (1946); Death Takes the Living (1949) aka The Disappearing Parson; Ground for Suspicion (1950); Murder in Absence (1954); and Bones in the Brickfield (1958) (In bold letters the novels on my TBR shelves)

As Cecil Waye: This was a very short-lived Street pseudonym. There are four in number and very hard to find. Curtis Evans has read two and he found neither work memorable.

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(Facsimile Dust Jacket, The Paddington Mystery by John Rhode, Geoffrey Bles Ltd. (UK), 1925)

A special release of the very first crime novel by John Rhode, introducing Dr Priestley, the genius detective who would go on to appear in more than 70 bestselling crime novels during the Golden Age.

When Harold Merefield returned home in the early hours of a winter morning from a festive little party at that popular nightclub, the ‘Naxos’, he was startled by a gruesome discovery. On his bed was a corpse.

There was nothing to show the identity of the dead man or the cause of his death. At the inquest, the jury found a verdict of ‘Death from Natural Causes’ – perhaps they were right, but yet . . . ?

Harold determined to investigate the matter for himself and sought the help of Professor Priestley, who, by the simple but unusual method of logical reasoning, succeeded in throwing light upon what proved to be a very curious affair indeed.

This Detective Club classic is introduced by crime writing historian and expert Tony Medawar, who looks at how John Rhode, who also wrote as Miles Burton and as Cecil Waye, became one of the best-selling and most popular British authors of the Golden Age.

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(Facsimile Dust Jacket, The Secret of High Eldersham, by Miles Burton, Collins The Crime Club (UK), 1930)

Samuel Whitehead, the new landlord of the Rose and Crown, is a stranger in the lonely East Anglian village of High Eldersham. When the newcomer is stabbed to death in his pub, and Scotland Yard are called to the scene, it seems that the veil dividing High Eldersham from the outside world is about to be lifted.
Detective-Inspector Young forms a theory about the case so utterly impossible that merely entertaining the suspicion makes him doubt his own sanity. Surrounded by sinister forces beyond his understanding, and feeling the need of rational assistance, he calls on a brilliant amateur and ‘living encyclopedia’, Desmond Merrion. Soon Merrion falls for the charms of a young woman in the village, Mavis Owerton. But does Mavis know more about the secrets of the village than she is willing to admit?