Saturday, February 27, 2016

Gently With the Painters: Review

In Gently With the Painters (1960) George Gently has recently been promoted to Superintendent, C.I.D. and he is disappointed to find out how little fieldwork a superintendent gets to do. His days are now mostly filled with shuffling paperwork from Inbox to Outbox. When an interesting case of murder amongst the painting crowd pops up in his native Northshire, he begins avidly following the news and trying to come up with a good reason to contact the local inspector in charge. 

The victim is a young painter who was a member of the Palette Group. Shirley Johnson was found stabbed to death in a car park after one of the group's meetings. Ironically, the car park adjoins and sits in full view of the police headquarters. There was a bit of a row during that meeting and rumors emerge that Shirley, though married, may have had few extracurricular activities going on with her fellow artists....beyond artwork.

At first it looks like Inspector Hansom has it all sewn up. Although there are surface points that make the case look interesting, it begins to shape up as your standard husband kills wife scenario. Then there is an angry scene at the group's art exhibit which includes a painting by the dead woman and suddenly the Northshire police decide they need to call in the Yard. Gently's boss is all set to send the young and coming Inspector Stephens to take on the case with Gently giving the young inspector a briefing on his old stomping grounds. Gently wangles his way into the investigation and he and Stephens are off to Northshire.

After working their way from Hansom's theory that Johnson did it (and like a dog with a meaty bone, he refuses to give that theory up for long) and then through all the artistic suspects on the list, they come full circle back to Johnson. It looks especially bad when the ex-RAF pilot gives the man assigned to tail him the slip and leads the police on a marry chase via car, taxi, and plane. But is Johnson running from justice or looking for evidence to prove his innocence? Gently has a few ideas on that score....and, like the rebel he's known to be, those ideas may not make either Hansom or Stephens happy.

For some reason that I can't quite pin down I keep coming back to the Gently novels by Alan Hunter. I keep him on my TBF list (To Be Found) and pick the novels up whenever I see them. It must be Gently himself--because I do like George Gently--and Hunter's way with characterization, because I can't say that any of the books I've read so far have had knock-out mysteries. This one is decent, but definitely not fair play (for reasons that I can't mention without spoiling). The very best part is Gently's interactions with one of the suspects and the book has a very exciting penultimate scene worthy of the best chase movies. Another quibble (beyond the non-fair-play) that keeps this from the higher ranks is the dialogue style. There are many instances where I felt that I was overhearing a coded conversation; that there was much being left unsaid that Gently apparently understood and if I only had the code book I would understand the apparent non sequiturs too. That was a bit annoying. I've a few more Gently mysteries on the TBR pile. I'll keep hoping for a masterpiece.  ★★ for a decent police procedural with good characters, fair mystery, and exciting wrap-up.

This fulfills the "Artist/Art  Equipment" Category on the Silver Vintage Scavenger Hunt card.

1 comment:

fredamans said...

I don't think this one is for me but am glad you enjoyed it.