Friday, August 2, 2019

Friday's Forgotten Book: Tenant for the Tomb

Tenant for the Tomb (1971) by Anthony Gilbert (Lucy Beatrice Malleson) finds the irrepressible Arthur Crook, lawyer-detective whose clients are always innocent (Always.), mixed up with two ladies who plunge in where angels fear to tread and who can talk the hind leg off a donkey without batting an eye. He first meets Dora Chester and Imogene "Dotty" Garland on the train station at Penton. They and three others are waiting for the train to London. They get to chatting as you do when stuck in a train waiting room and Crook gets a taste of Imogene's unique brand of random, non sequitur talk. Then he and Dora witness what looks to be an attempt by Imogene's companion, Miss Styles (aka Miss Plum as named by Imogene), to shove Imogene under the train. 

Crook manages to grab Imogene in time and as he and Dora discuss the odd scene (there's really nothing to prove it wasn't just an accident or a slip on Imogene's part), the lawyer hands Dora his card and asks for her address. Just in case something happens. She's actually preparing to leave London and move to the Penton area, so..

Well, sugar, drop me a line before you go and give me the new address. No, I'm not making a pass--as if you ever thought I would--but if something does happen to Dotty I'd like to have my witness. And, like I said before, the time could even come when you could do with a bit of help yourself.

The next thing he knows something has happened. But it's Miss Styles who is dead and Imogene has disappeared. The two women had taken a hotel room in London and while Imogene was having a bath (at Miss Styles's suggestion) someone had shoved Miss Styles out the window. After the police finish a round of preliminary question and leave her in the charge of a nurse--more to keep an eye on her than because she's in shock, Imogene decides that having had to endure Miss Styles's constant companionship she isn't keen on being kept under the watch of another keeper and makes a bid for freedom. 

She's not sure where to go, but then she remembers Dora and her invitation to "come see me at my new house" sometime. time like the present. Once there, she and Dora join forces with Arthur Crook to find out who killed Miss Styles. And why Miss Styles behaved so oddly about where to stay. And why Miss Styles posted all her letters in another town rather than using the local post office. And why Miss Styles swore Imogene to secrecy over her brother. And just exactly who was blackmailing whom? The investigation will take them to a seedy seaside resort where Miss Styles had previously had a partnership in a run-down hotel and ends in a lonely churchyard where a freshly dug grave tempts our villain to try one more spot of murder.

I think this is my favorite Arthur Crook mystery yet. I've found that I much prefer the stories where the lawyer shows up early in the proceedings. As I've mentioned before, Gilbert/Malleson is much more effective when she's writing about her protagonist and his interactions with other characters. This particular plot contained numerous laugh-out-loud moments, especially when Crook, Imogene, and Dora are all on stage. The conversation runs like a comedy team's patter routine. And the plot is quite good too. I had my heart set on a certain culprit and managed to disregard any and all clues that Gilbert/Malleson provided along the way. ★★★★

Finished 7/28/19
Deaths = 3 (two pushed from height; one shot)
Silver Just the Facts: Where--primary death takes place in London (capital city)
Calendar of Crime: October (spooky scene)

You can postpone evil moments, but you can't put them off forever, not even the instance of death, your own or anyone else's (p. 19)

But in the end he didn't go to London, because soon after seven o'clock the next morning he was called by the police to say that, although Miss Styles had stayed put as any decorous corpse would, Miss Garland had disappeared. (p. 43)

DC: How can she help them? She was in the bath.
AC: They need a witness.
DC: People having baths don't expect to be asked to act as witnesses.
(Dora Chester, Arthur Crook; p. 57)

I was thinking about all the people who deserve medals and never get them. There's Mr. Crook going to face Charles and Flora singlehanded, and taking it as part of the day's work. I'd sooner be Daniel in the lions' den myself. Lions can only roar. (Imogene "Dotty" Garland, p. 69)

I'd back Miss Chester against a whole posse of police. Tell you the truth, I begin to feel quite sorry for the chaps, facing those two. Y'see, Miss Garland don't answer the question she thinks the police have in mind, like most of them do, she answers the actual question. You ask your criminal--suppose you're investigatin' the death of a cow, say--Did you notice the cow when you crossed the field this morning? and he'll hand you a lot of spiel about noticing it because it was behaving in a very rum manner, convulsions or something, and he did wonder should he say something to the farmer. But your sister she'll just say yes, she saw the cow, and if the chap tries to press her into an opinion on how it was behaving, she'll just tell him that not being a cow, she don't know the right way a cow should behave. That floors 'em. (Arthur Crook, pp. 76-7)

They [the police] ain't used to the truth, it has the same effect on them as whiskey on a total abstainer. (Crook, p. 77)

But it wasn't easy to silence Charles. Crook began to realize why he had (1) got into the House of Commons and (2) gave every sign of staying there. (p. 84)

I could do with a drink. It's been an afternoon of shocks and I'm not the chap I once was. I don't care what time of day it is. (Charles Garland, p. 101)

Murder's generally simple. It's the consequences that get so tangled up. (Crook, p. 123)

I'm sure they'll all try and make out that somehow, whatever's happened, it's Dot's fault. They do tend to treat her like a zany, and actually, even though her conclusions sometimes sound very odd, they're just as likely to be right as anyone else's. (Dora Chester, p. 173)


Kate said...

Not read this one, but I think it sounds like my sort of book.

Bev Hankins said...

Kate: It really is quite good.