Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Gently Down the Stream

 Gently Down the Stream (1957) by Alan Hunter

Sometimes the folks who rented boats from Sloley's Yard returned the water crafts late. Sometimes they returned them in worse shape than they took them out. But this is the first time one of the yachts didn't come back and is found burned out and the remains of the man who rented it onboard. It might have been an accident...there was a whole can full of petrol on board. Except James Lammas didn't die from the fire or smoke inhalation...he was shot through the head with .22 pistol. 

Chief Inspector George Gently is brought in to help the local police force out. But the deeper into the case he gets, the less it makes sense. Of course it doesn't help that no one is telling the truth--not his wife, not his son, not his daughter...and none of the other witnesses who pop up along the way. And what has happened to Lammas's secretary and his chauffeur. Did they set the older man up and run off together? Just when Gently thinks he knows the answers, the case shifts and it looks like Mrs. Lammas and their son might be responsible. Then he finds a bit of gold paper and half of a set of dentures and everything becomes clear....

As I've mentioned in reviews of other Gently titles, for some reason that I can't quite pin down I keep coming back to these 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--I do like George Gently--and Hunter's way with characterization, because I can't say that any of the books I've read previously were knock-out mysteries. This one is better than most; the plot is really quite nifty--even if I did figure it out quite some time before Gently. Actually, I think that may be one of the reasons I liked it so much. In most of the novels I've reviewed here before, I'd felt that the clues weren't quite fairly given and that I didn't have a chance to solve it before (or at the same time) as our detective. The clues are definitely there this time and I was bright enough to latch onto them. Go me! One quibble that still remains is the dialogue style. In every book so far, there are many instances where I feel that I am overhearing a coded conversation; that there is 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's somewhat annoying. Added to that this time is the river folks' dialect (which is pretty tough to work through) and it doesn't help that Gently starts talking that way too when he's questioning some of them. 

Despite my quibbles, this is a nicely plotted mystery and I enjoyed it more than any I've reviewed previously on the blog. ★★ and 1/2.

First line: There was something wrong at Sloley's Yard.

Last line: "It's a mistake, my being a bachelor."

Deaths = 3 ( two shot; one natural)

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