Death Finds A Foothold (1961)

“You though youd got away with it but its catching up with you you dirty skunk your not fit to live and wont if you persist in taking the job so watch out.”

In 1934, four men went up the Matterhorn, but only three returned. In order to save one man’s life, another was left to die…

Years later, and the Foothold Club, an association of mountaineers, is holding its annual Dinner Meet in the shadow of Snowdon, and all three of the survivors of 1934 are in attendance. Also present are Sir Abercrombie Lewker, the famous actor-manager-mountaineer-amateur sleuth, and his guest, Detective Inspector Grimmett. The opportunity for a relaxing break is soon spoiled when the Club President shows them a threatening letter that he has received – can murder be on the cards?

Well, obviously, what sort of book do you think I’m reading?

Glyn Carr wrote fifteen mountain climbing mysteries featuring Lewker – he also wrote four thrillers as Showell Styles, with Lewker appearing in two of these as well, just to confuse matters. Five of them were re-released by Rue Morgue press – Death On Milestone Buttress, Murder On The Matterhorn, The Youth Hostel Murders, Death Under Snowdon and this one. Oddly there are loads of copies knocking around of the first one of these, possibly as it’s apparently not very good, but, certainly in the UK, Matterhorn and this one are all but unfindable, which is a bit of a shame. Carr is an author who I’ve come to enjoy (admittedly after only reading two books) and I’m very keen to read more.

I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s take a look at this one. Despite being one of the five re-issues, this is the eleventh Lewker mystery (were these five the only ones that Rue Morgue could get copies of?) and he’s certainly calmed down a bit since The Youth Hostel Murders with his Shakespearean quotes being reduced to the occasional rather than the norm. He’s very much from the eccentric amateur sleuth mold, with a helpful police ally (although while Grimmett is presented as his Japp here, apparently he’s only been in three books before this), and Carr very much plays the traditional detective mystery game here to match the character. Plot-wise, this could sit very well next to the greats from the genre.

I think this does suffer from the set-up, as by nature of the plot, there are a lot of characters in the opening section and possibly a bit too much mountaineering jargon. It features plenty of mountaineers, plus a number of soldiers – there are military manoeuvres taking place in the vicinity of the inevitable murders – most of which have absolutely nothing to do with the plot and disappear after the dead body appears. Unfortunately, this coincided with me putting the book aside and not coming back to it for a day, and I’d promptly forgotten who was who. Timing is everything…

At the centre of the plot is a nice bit of misdirection – a very simple trick that I completely missed – and there are plenty of clues that I didn’t spot either. On top of that, it’s a very readable book – Lewker is good company and it ticks along nicely. There’s a nice selection of suspects (once the random characters get out of the way) and while it does fumble one red herring that develops at an odd pace, it generally keeps moving, avoiding the need for countless interviews and reinterviews.

Carr is definitely an author who needs to be better known and read – unfortunately originals of his work (and even some of the reprints) are incredibly hard to find. Fingers crossed someone decides that these need a reprint…

5 comments

  1. Glyn Carr was among the first wave of obscure, long out-of-print writers to be resurrected by the Rue Morgue Press and hoped he would be picked up by another publisher when RMP closed down. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened and he has since gone back to obscurity. I was looking forward to reprints of A Corpse at Camp Two and Lewker in Tirol (cover suggests a unique impossible crime). Same story with Clyde B. Clason and Kelley Roos.

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    • After I’m finished with dear old Brian, I’m going to look into Carr. He’s the first other author that I’ve looked into – Cobb, Wills, etc – that seems to just get the whole GA clueing thing.

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  2. Some years ago I bought two Carr first editions for about 10p each at a car boot. One was A Corpse at Camp Two and the other was The Ice Axe Murders, which was even a signed copy. And there my luck ran out because I’ve never seen another one since…

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