It’s Week Two of our blogging collective’s Reprint Of The Year nominations. Kate will collating them later today, and voting – that’s where you come in – will start tomorrow, over at Cross Examining Crime.
Last week I championed The Woman In The Wardrobe by Peter Schaffer, the book that I feel ought to win the award – a book long-sought after by collectors and now reprinted for the first time. On top of that, it’s pretty good too.
Today, however, it’s time to nominate the book that I want to win.
There are so many books that I could choose from the ten Brian Flynn titles that were re-released this year. Well, ten at most, obviously, but I’ll be honest, I could pick at least five of them, and there’s only one that would never make my favourite of them.
I could have picked The Padded Door, with its stunning left-turn in the plot and fascinating fact about Stilton. I could have picked The Horn, Flynn’s love-letter to The Hound Of The Baskervilles (and possibly the Marquis de Sade). I could have picked The Fortescue Candle because of the unique truth behind the murder. It could have been Fear and Trembling, with its tale of Bathurst in love (and a very clever mystery plot too). But long term readers (and people who have read the title of this post) will not be surprised that my choice is Tread Softly.
Tread Softly is the twentieth Anthony Bathurst book, and the third that I read. It was, as I’ve said before, it was the book that convinced me that I needed to find a way to bring Brian’s work back into print. The Mystery Of The Peacock’s Eye was the book that brought his books to my attention, but Tread Softly was the book that showed me that he was more than a one-trick pony.
And it’s not just the central idea of the book that makes it stand out. The opening half of the book, pre-trial, is told in part in epistolary form, with people linked to the case writing to others to reveal what they believe happened regarding the aspect of the crime that they do (or don’t) have knowledge of. Flynn does a good job of channelling a variety of voices here, and it’s an entertaining opening, a clever way of dodging multiple chapters of witness interviews. The courtroom scenes are delightful, as we see into the heads of the twelve disparate jurors. I’m not a massive fan of protracted courtroom scenes in crime fiction, and we don’t really get one here, as the bulk of the second half of the book concerns the aftermath of the case. Obviously, I won’t go into that here but I will say (again) that I think the motive for all the shenanigans going on here is beautifully believable. And I think that it was that motive that sold this book to me.
The central idea of the book is truly unique, something so rare in crime fiction. Claude Merivale is on trial for strangling his wife. The twist is that he voluntarily confessed to the crime, claiming that he did it during a bad dream. If this was the case, as there is no intent to harm, Merivale would walk free. Inspector McMorran is convinced that Merivale is a ruthless killer, so enlists Anthony Bathurst to find the evidence to convict Merivale. What he finds though…
Once upon a time, I bought it on a whim – my fellow bloggers were looking at books from 1937 for Crimes Of The Century and a quick search of Abebooks found an affordable copy so I thought, what the hell… and the rest was history (a very small part of history, but even so).
So, when the polls open tomorrow, vote for Tread Softly. A truly unique Golden Age mystery in style and plot, and moreover, the reason that Brian Flynn is back on your shelves.