Death Through The Looking Glass (1978) by Richard Forrest

Children’s author and sometime sleuth Lyon Wentworth was flying solo in his hot-air balloon when he saw the distinctive private aircraft of his friend Tom Giles crashing into the Long Island Sound. A search of the sound reveals nothing, and Wentworth begins to question what he saw – especially when he receives a phone call from Giles – a call that has Giles in fear for his life.

And then the plane is found – with the murdered body of Giles inside it. It soon becomes clear that a murderer is on the loose and isn’t going to stop at Giles. It seems he was part of a tontine – a reward that goes to the last man standing – and someone is determined to claim it in the only way possible.

Absolutely no idea where this came from, but found this on my shelf the other day and thought I’d give it a go. It seems Richard Forrest wrote ten of these between 1975 and 2005, with this being the third of them. I’m guessing someone on Twitter or Facebook recommended the series. And… it’s okay.

First, though, let’s take a look at the sleuths. Lyon Wentworth, a children’s author and his wife Bea, a state senator are an interesting enough pair, but I need to raise an issue here. I suppose this comes down to experience, but you can’t have a couple be happily married and yet still have the husband acting on his desires for a bikini-clad eighteen-year-old – at least twice he only stops himself when Bea walks in on him. Now I’m a happily married man, and I’ll be honest, I haven’t had a bikini-clad eighteen-year-old throwing themselves at me, but I’m 99% sure that it wouldn’t be a problem. In fact, I’ve checked with Mrs Puzzle Doctor and she’s explained to me in no uncertain terms that should such an occurrence happen, I definitely won’t be doing anything untoward…

Anyway, back to the book. It’s a bit of an odd one – the appearing, disappearing and re-appearing plane is sort of an impossible crime. The solution to what happened with the plane has the feel of an impossible mystery, especially as one has trouble believing what happened is what happened. All in all, it’s more of a “how did the obvious villain do it” mystery rather than much of a whodunit. And the link to Lewis Carroll is pretty weak, btw…

Overall, it passed the time pleasantly enough. I won’t be making an effort to track down the rest of the series, but wouldn’t pass on a copy that I found in a charity shop. Curious though, if anyone has read the series, is this one of the stronger or weaker ones?

4 comments

  1. Richard Forrest specialized in locked rooms and impossible crimes. So, as you can probably guess, I tried a few some years back and he can be frustrating. Forrest undeniably had a knack for locked room-tricks and staging impossible situations (like the false-solution from A Child’s Garden of Death or the armor-plated crime scene/solution in Death at King’s Arthur Court), but very uneven in every other regard. I remember A Child’s Garden of Death held together the best as an honest attempt to bridge the classic detective and modern crime novel, but you should also know Jim completely gave up on Forrest because he hated everything about his work.

    So, yeah, it’s probably a sound strategy to wait and see, if a copy happens to turn up at a charity shop.

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    • I read three by Forrest and they certainly didn’t live long in my memory. One of them involved a disappearing houseboat, but I remember the plot being thin and severely stretched…it might have been a good short story, but not a novel. Another might have been this one, actually, because the disappearance of a plane does sound familiar, but nothing else about this is ringing any bells.

      I remember TC quite enjoying A Child’s Garden of Death and always intended to get to it…but then other book intruded and I’ve not really looked back since.

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  2. The bizarre subplot about the philandering (and potentially predatory) husband reminds me of a Highsmith story, Mermaids on the Golf Course, about a politician injured while defending the president from assassination. The bullet leaves him with brain damage and seems to regress the man to the level of a horny adolescent, at one point chasing a secretary around the swimming pool.

    Philandering in crime fiction is a subject of amusement. I remember an Agatha Christie, Towards Zero, where the matriarch bemoans how silly the younger generation gets about men and their affairs.

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