Seven Dead by J Jefferson Farjeon

When you’re robbing a house, even if you’re just passing through, grabbing as much cutlery as possible, the last thing that you want to find is a dead body. So imagine how Ted Lyte feels when his amateur caper results in finding seven such corpses…

Enter Inspector Kendall, the man who investigated the affair of the Thirteen Guests and journalist-cum-yachtsman Thomas Hazeldean. Obsessed with a painting in the house of a young girl (with a neat bullet hole in it), Hazeldean heads to Boulogne in search of her. Meanwhile Kendall remains behind to investigate the scene of the crime. But both of their quests have them on the trail of a multiple murderer…

J Jefferson Farjeon is now a reasonably well known long lost Golden Age author, with Mystery In White, Thirteen Guests and The Z Murders already re-released by the British Library and the Detective Ben books now available from the Collins Crime Club, so it was inevitable that another Farjeon title would re-appear and here it is. It’s from 1939, and about the thirty fifth out of the eighty books that he wrote. And it’s… odd.

Farjeon is certainly someone who writes in a variety of styles – indeed, he uses a variety of styles throughout the book – but he clearly seems to prefer the thriller genre. Once he has set up the situation, we are whisked off to Boulogne with Hazeldean as he races to rescue a girl who doesn’t realise she needs rescuing. Then we rejoin Kendall who does some actual investigating and then…

I’ll be honest, I’m suffering at the moment from yet another cold – my fourth of this winter – and there were times when I got a bit lost with this one. The plot keeps moving forward but there were a couple of times when I had to flick back pages to remind myself who was who.

Having said that, the book finishes very strongly with a section in a different voice from what had gone before and with an effective conclusion. The central characters are entertaining (I did enjoy the very final “twist”) and in hindsight, I wish I’d read it when I wasn’t doped up on cold medicine.

For a review of it from someone who was fully compos mentis when reading it, do pop over to Cross Examining Crime, but while this isn’t a particularly classic mystery, it is an effective and enjoyable thriller and is Well Worth A Look.

6 comments

  1. My first experience with Farjeon (Mystery in White) wasn’t a particularly enjoyable one in spite of feeling there were some good ideas there. The concept for this one intrigues me but your criticisms remind me a little of why I have been reluctant to dip into his work again…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Just read it, sans cold or its medications, and mostly agree: It opens like a classic observational detective story, written in a more than usually lively way, and then shifts into thriller mode — but I think, not very thrillingly, what with the gappy timeline and chase-free chase ending. Our ingenue, Dora, seemed more than usually bland, and the way we learn what happened disappointed me.

    Liked by 1 person

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