John Wilkins is a married man. Not a happily married man, just a married one. He does not love his wife, but when he meets a young woman in the library, he becomes obsessed with her. The story of that obsession is told by John to a psychiatrist, conducting an evaluation of John. John has been having blackouts, causing him to forget things. But could he have forgotten committing murder?
A young woman lies dead on Brighton beach and Wilkins is on trial for her murder. But did he do it? Was it deliberate or conducted under one of Wilkins’ blackouts? Or is he the scapegoat for someone else’s crime.
I’m not a fan of Julian Symons, at least not before going into this book. It was he who coined the phrase ‘humdrum’ and helped consign some of my favourite authors to near-oblivion even to this day. So it was with some trepidation that I approached this one, my first foray into his own fiction.
I suppose this isn’t an inverted mystery as we are left for a long time before we discover whether Wilkins committed the murder or not, but it has all the hallmarks of that genre. And it’s not a genre that I particularly relish, interesting denouement or not. We either spend an age learning about the motivations for a murder, or an age learning nothing that’s really relevant to the plot about the background to a non-murderer.
It’s well-written, spending time building character and cranking up tension, but it’s not really my sort of thing, so personally, I didn’t particularly enjoy it. As I said, I’m not a fan of the inverted form and I’m getting a little tired of courtroom drama. As such, I’ll sign off here and direct you over to the review over at Cross Examining Crime, where Kate loved it. I can see why people would like it, I can see why it’s a good book. But it’s not my sort of thing – give me a traditional whodunit next time…