Monday, May 14, 2012

The Morning After: Review

In The Morning After Death by Nicholas Blake, Nigel Strangeways has contacted an acquaintance from Oxford days who happens to be the Master of Hawthorne House at Cabot University for permission to come and do some research in the famous Ivy League library.  Strangeways is welcomed at the American university and is introduced to a interesting cast of characters.  There are the three brothers who are all professors of the university--Josiah (Classics), Chester (Business), and Mark (English) Ahlberg--who have brought their sibling rivalry with them.  There is the graduate student John Tate--accused of plagiarizing some of of Josiah's work, but claiming that it's really the other way 'round.  Tate's sister, Sukie, who is highly protective of her brother and who has been involved with more than one of the brothers Ahlberg.  And then there's Charles Reilly, Irish poet and drunken, would-be rapist.

Strangeways swears that he has come to America for peace and quiet and thoughtful poetic research.  All that goes by the wayside when Josiah Ahlberg is found shot to death and stuffed in on of the lockers on campus.  Zeke Edwardes, Master of the House, requests that Strangeways use his investigative skills to assist the police and look out for Cabot University's interests.  Nigel is reluctant to put his oar in--citing his unfamiliarity with US police procedures, but he can't resist when Sukie bats her eyes at him and begs for his help as well.

There are all sorts of motives--from the sibling squabbles that may have represented something far more dangerous to the possibility that Tate was looking for revenge on the man who blighted his career to the Irish poet hoping to keep his amorous adventures underwraps.  Nigel must sift through false alibis and cover-ups in order to help the local police find the culprit--and even when they do, the motive isn't quite as clear as it would seem.

I always enjoy the Blake detective novels.  He has quite a flair for dialogue--it's quite like watching a verbal tennis match at times.  And the fact that "Blake" is a pseudonym for Cecil Day-Lewis, Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom from 1968-1972, is very apparent in his lyrical style.  The best of his books come with terrific descriptions and language as well as the good dialogue.  He sets up a pretty twisty plot as well.  Four stars.

...he had adapted himself to what seemed to Nigel a basic rule of American conversation--one may be serious or frivolous, but never in the same paragraph. (p. 5)

"I do not have persecution mania. I am persecuted. That is quite different." [Chester Ahlberg] (p. 7)

"That is typical of the American student. He believes that indiscriminately sucking in information is  equivalent to acquiring knowledge." [Josiah Ahlberg] (p. 18)

Academic circles are too damned articulate, too bright altogether. These sorts of people would talk their way into the dock if they didn't get there by conventional means. What on earth is Brady going to make of them, all talking away like books and acting like mental defectives? [thoughts of Nigel Strangeways] (p. 47)

Most women are good actresses in an emergency: some don't even need one. [Nigel's thoughts] (p. 53)

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