Friday, June 12, 2015

Falling Star: Review

And now for something completely different. Falling Star (1964) is a different kind of Patricia Moyes book than I've read to date. Till now each detective novel has been told in the third person, but Falling Star adopts Anthony "Pudge" Croombe-Peters as its first-person narrator. Pudge is a rather annoying fellow--both to the other characters in the story and to the reader. And quite a bit of time is spent trying to figure out if he's just an annoying, self-absorbed, snobbish member of the upperclass with too much time on his hands or if he's the unreliable narrator that he appears to be. This may be part of Moyes's plan to keep the reader too busy to spot the clues she obligingly provides.

There is also the fact that Moyes makes a fairly successful venture into the "impossible crime" genre for the second death. No, we don't have a locked room, but we do have an apparent suicide-turned murder (this isn't really a spoiler--it doesn't take long to realize there's something fishy about that death) where it appears that none of the likely suspects could possibly have committed the crime. Inspector Henry Tibbett spots a few clues here and there that tell him how the deed was accomplished. I missed it completely. Despite being shown exactly what he found.

It all starts on the set of a movie filming in 1960s London. Pudge Croombe-Peters represents the money angle of the production. He is a bored, wealthy middle-aged man who doesn't want to settle down to manage his father's estate. Getting himself talked into backing a brand-new film-company put together by his military buddy Keith Pardoe, his writer wife Biddy, and friend (and Producer-to-be) Sam Potman. They get the company off the ground and start filming a version of Biddy's script Street Scene. There are the usual cast conflicts with a prima donna leading lady who is determined to have her way about everything and to have her way with every available man and an aging (though still handsome) leading man who wants everything his way. 

The critical moment comes when they are prepared to film a crucial moment in the relationship between the two leading roles. It should be a very easy scene for Bob Meakin to play. All he needs to do is jam his eyeglasses on his nose, rush down the subway stairs, then look around wildly for his girl. But with the crew in position and the camera rolling, Meakin trips on the stairs, and falls directly beneath the wheels of the incoming train. The inquest declares it to be no more than an appalling accident and an insurance company is convinced enough to pay up on the policy which ensured the film company against just such accidents. But when a former member of the crew dies after falling out of her kitchen window, her mother shows up to dispute the ruling of suicide. This and subsequent events convince Inspector Henry Tibbett that murder was added to the script.

If it weren't for the annoying Pudge, this would be a full four-star book. The plot is quite good with plenty of twists and well-planted clues. Moyes does a very good job with her first impossible crime (the first I've read, anyway) and manages to come up with a fairly ingenious method for the killer to manage an alibi. I was quite taken in by the red herrings thrown across my path by the rather dim narrator--which would seem to be his best quality as far as the story goes. Henry Tibbett doesn't shine quite so well in this one, but I think that's because we're seeing him through Pudge's self-absorbed lens. Solid story earning ★★ and a half.

This counts as the "Entertainment World" square on the Silver Vintage Bingo card. It also is the first half of a two-part clue for my second Movie Title Password. The clue is "Star."


fredamans said...

I like the era for the book. I have a thing for the 60's. Great review!

Anonymous said...

Will be trying my first Mayo next month actually - thanks Bev.