Failing to notice the two steps that led down into the room, he fell into her presence rather than arrived. As he picked himself up, blinking in the strong light, he heard an amused voice say: ‘It’s all right. Everybody does that the first time. I’m always telling Grace to warn people.’
Nigel shook hands with the owner of the voice. Mrs Cammison was a robust shapely creature, red-cheeked and blue-eyed, the picture of health: she might have been any age from twenty-five to thirty-five, and looked like a Victorian painter’s idea of a milkmaid except for her chic dress and the horn-rimmed spectacles that went so incongruously with her fresh face. Nigel muttered involuntarily: ‘I believe Georgia was right after all.’
‘“ Georgia was right”? That’s your wife, isn’t it?’
‘Yes. It’s a long and rather discreditable story.’
observations: Nigel has guessed in advance what his hostess will be like, and has been proved wrong. In the manner of many a 1930s amateur investigator, he has come a-visiting for harmless reasons and will get caught up in a dramatic murder. He is to give a talk on Caroline poets, supposedly, though that doesn’t make sense, as they talk about modern poetry in the meeting – but it’s a good chance to introduce all the suspects. Nicholas Blake, pen-name of the poet Cecil Day-Lewis, keeps switching between being a very classic, respectable detective story writer, and introducing some rather unlikely tropes. He’s a bit funny, a bit sexy – see previous entry – and notably mentioned TS Eliot in a different book. This one even features an abortion, as a sad necessity but not something dreadful. Two surprises – he is described as having irregular and discoloured teeth, and uses the phrase ‘dollars to doughnuts’, not perhaps common in the UK in the 1930s.
As a murder story this is enjoyable and very much of its time, not outstanding. As C Day-Lewis, its author wrote some wonderful poems – including one of the best on parenthood, Walking Away – and his children include the actor Daniel, who won his 3rd Oscar on Sunday, and the cook Tamsin.
Links on the blog: You can find a list of detective stories on the blog by clicking the tab above. This book featured in a Dress Down Sunday entry here.
The picture comes from a vintage eyewear blog.