Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Dreadful Hollow: Review

The Dreadful Hollow is Nicholas Blake's (aka poet laureate Cecil Day Lewis) tenth book starring recurring detective Nigel Strangeways.  Strangeways is a private detective with decidedly amateur leanings--he behaves more like a gentleman detective, however he does get paid for many of his investigations.  At least there is talk of payment--it's unclear whether he'll actually see payment for this latest adventure.

A poison pen has been sending nasty letters to the inhabitants of Prior's Umborne.  A small village where Sir Archibald Blick has a family residence--and where his two sons currently live.  It is also home to one of Blick's business interests.  Blick calls on Strangeways to get to the bottom of the poison because it's disrupting work.  Also living in the village are two sisters, Rosebay and Celedine--the daughters of a man who committed suicide when Blick drove him to financial ruin, the local vicar--stalwart friend to Rosebay and Celedine, who harbors deeper feelings for one of the sisters, and the postmistress and her religiously obsessed son.  Strangeways barely has a chance to make his first report to the unlikable businessman before Blick is found dead at the bottom of the same hollow where Rosebay and Celedine's father died.

This is a well-written, competent book as you expect from a poet laureate.  It is not as cleverly mystifying as some of Blake's other work and there isn't quite as much intricate psychology.  Not that there isn't any psychology at work--there is.  It's just a bit more obvious.  The tale does involve one rather interesting, somewhat macabre dream which makes the story all that more apropos for the R. I. P. Reading Event.  It doesn't take Strangeways long to spot the poison pen....and it shouldn't.  The alert reader should spot the culprit just as quickly.  It also doesn't take long to spot the murderer.  That may or may not be the same person..... 

The joy for the reader is in the writing itself.  Blake/Lewis knows how to tell a tale.  And he knows how to write.  The reader is swept right along in the swell of words.  It's with a nod and wink--not a snort of disgust--that we know who did it long before the end.  And it is well worth the trip to read the ending at the quarry--with the contrast of Strangeway's calm knowledge to the angry mob ready to lynch the culprit.  Three and a half stars--rounded to four on Goodreads.


Ryan said...

Not an author I've read before, and not sure if I ever will. But I really do enjoy your reviews because it gives me a great idea of where to look for new books.

Bev Hankins said...

thanks, Ryan!