Ladies and gentlemen and, of course, boys and girls! Welcome to this evening’s performance of the classic tale of Dick Whittington and his loyal feline companion. Gasp at the beautiful love story between Dick and Alice. Scream at the terrifying Demon King. Laugh at the misadventures of Idle Jack and Sarah the cook. But if that doesn’t appeal to you, this evening’s performance has something extra special.
Watch in awe as Dick and his cat curl up on a mossy knoll to dream of future success. Watch the Fairy Queen and her fairies cast a spell to make his dreams come true. And gasp in horror as you realise that tonight, Dick’s dreams are over. And the cat might not be long for the world either…
Dean Street Press are forgiven once again for passing over a certain long lost writer by digging up the works of Edwin & Mona Augustyn Radford, authors of thirty-eight mystery novels between 1944 and 1978. Three titles are being released in March, namely this one, their second title, Murder Jigsaw and the fourth one, Murder Isn’t Cricket, all titles featuring the forensic investigator Inspector Manson.
I really enjoyed this one. There are some lovely turns of phrase – for example, on the audience for a pantomime audience:
“The children in the audience saw only the fairy story of their books come to life; the grown-ups caught for a moment a remembrance of their childhood days, and remembered their first pantomime, a memory that never fails to revive the thrill of the first theatre expedition.”
The theatre stuff is really well done, with some characters just being referred to by their character’s name at times, and the bustle and stress behind the scenes really comes through. The story features parallel plots, one concerning insurance fraud and one concerning the murder of the actress playing Dick, that, unsurprisingly, dovetail together at the end. Manson is cut in the vein of an active Dr Priestley, with some genuine (and engrossing) science that is rarely seen in the genre. As with Priestley, Manson is unwilling to theorise without facts, but he’s much more of a team player, with a small circle of investigators helping him.
And there is some nice logic in the solution – if you read this and think you’ve got the killer rumbled, trust me, you haven’t – although the motive seemed to come a bit out of nowhere.
I have to wonder – I know some reprints tend to alter the odd word of phrase that is out of date. Well, here’s a description of a scene from the panto:
“The audience saw Dick meet Alice Fitzwarren, saw him engaged in her father’s store, saw him making love to Alice.”
Now, dear reader, I know that in that day and age, it basically meant wooing, but a lot of readers are going to think it’s a rather adult panto…
Regardless, I really enjoyed this one, proof that there’s yet more lost authors out there just waiting to be rediscovered. An absolute cracker.
Availability: Unless you’re really lucky in the second hand shops, you’ll have to wait until March 4th 2019 when it’ll be out in paperback or as a (very cheap) ebook. Thanks to DSP for the review copy. There are some Radford titles available second hand as large print titles for some reason, but that just hurts my eyes when I read it.
Just The Facts, Ma’am: WHEN – During a performance of some sort.