And so we come to the second and final week of the multi-blog thread (and sort-of competition) for Reprint Of The Year. Last week, I championed The Case Of The Dead Shepherd by Christopher Bush, the highlight for me of the strong series of reprints from Dean Street Press. You can see my fellow bloggers thoughts for the first week indexed over at Cross Examining Crime.
This week, it’s time for me to pick an author that others are also championing – Richard Hull. But before I get into the book that I’m going to talk about, let me explain a little about the other titles and why mine is… well, better.
The Murder Of My Aunt is the best known of the books by Hull and was recently re-released by the British Library. It’s a shaggy dog inverted mystery, with a decent but very guessable punchline. It’s very different from a lot of Golden Age mysteries, and if it was the only book that Hull wrote, then it deserves its reputation. But it wasn’t.
It’s certainly better than Excellent Intentions, the other British Library re-release, a courtroom-based mystery. There are clever touches, but it’s not desperately exciting. But Ispo Books have also re-released some titles from Hull’s back catalogue. Keep It Quiet is an entertaining cross between a murder mystery and a bedroom farce, as the members try to cover up a murder in an exclusive club.
But the book I want to champion is Murder Isn’t Easy, also from Ipso Books. Set in an advertising agency, we follow the thoughts of Nicholas Latimer, the founder of the company, as he plots to rid himself of one of his partners. It’s hard to describe the twists and turns of the narrative as Hull produces the cleverest unreliable narrator tale that I’ve ever read. I’ll just say that after about a third of the tale, someone else takes over. And that won’t be the last time that some else needs to take over…
It’s the sort of verbal trickery that takes place in some of the better modern crime psychological tales – Let Me Lie by Claire Mackintosh springs to mind – but this title was decades ahead of its time. You could argue that this was an influential novel but I’m not sure that many modern authors would have read it. But read it and judge for yourself. The finest of the early Hull titles – my original review is here – and, because I believe it to be a truly ground-breaking novel, it deserves to be Reprint Of The Year.