Sir Abercrombie “Filthy” Lewker, actor, manager, mountaineer, wartime spy and one-off (at this point) amateur sleuth is looking forward to a break in Europe when he is persuaded by his one-time spymaster to take a trip to the Matterhorn. Léon Jacot, a resistance fighter of Lewker’s acquaintance is poised to seize political power in France. It is a priority of the UK government to discover what political leanings Jacot possesses in case action needs to be taken to prevent a shift in the European political landscape.
One morning – before Lewker has managed to find the information he needs – Jacot decides to take a solo climb of one of the ascents of the Matterhorn, despite the questionable weather conditions. But when his body is spotted on one of the glaciers, it seems clear that he must have fallen, despite his expertise. But if that was the case, how exactly was the cause of death suffocation? Faced with a near impossible situation, Lewker finds himself with a multitude of motives but a distinct lack of opportunity…
So, a quick recap. Showell Styles wrote a load of books, mostly thrillers and often set on mountains – Styles was a mountaineer himself. Three (or four, sources vary) of these featured Lewker in a supporting role and after that, Styles wrote fifteen traditional murder mysteries with Lewker as the lead under the pseudonym Glyn Carr. I’ve no idea why he adopted a pseudonym given he’d already been writing about Lewker and he’d written a fair few different novels under his own name, but it makes it easier to identify these books.
This is the second Lewker mystery and there’s a little difference between this and Death On Milestone Buttress, notably he’s reining in his Shakespearean quotes because, according to the character, someone told him too. Styles’ editor, perhaps? If this worries you a bit, as it did me, there’s no real sign of a change of personality in the sleuth, and despite his resolution, there are still a fair few quotes therein, and it’s not as if the rest of his dialogue is dull. In fact, it’s fair to say that Lewker is rapidly becoming one of my favourite Golden Age sleuths – if he was from the Golden Age, that is.
The Lewker books are straight out of the Golden Age, with a clear set of suspects, clues, deductions… you know the sort of thing. One person asked me if the fact that they all seem to be set on mountains (about half of them in Snowdonia) meant that the books were repetitive. Well, this is the fifth Lewker mystery I’ve read so far, and the only non-mountain thing they have in common is that most of them is that there is often one character who acts suspiciously for no real reason other than to be a suspect for the official detective to latch on to before Lewker reveals the truth.
The mechanics of the mysteries change from book to book, using a different gambit each time. This one is a clever one… I think. The reason for “I think” is that I worked it out – I’d love to know if anyone else who’s read this worked it out too. Really not sure if the clues are a little too unsubtle or that I was on form when I read this. I think it’s all pretty clever, just possibly a little over-clued. One important bit was mentioned a little too often, but even then…
Anyway, another tick in the “Reprint Glyn Carr” column – the Rue Morgue reprints from 2007 were the last time these appeared and are still available from a lot of second hand locations, but there are only five of those (including this one). So anyone out there who wants a new candidate for reprinting will have their work cut out finding the texts, but it would be well worth their time tracking them down. Alas, only one more to go for me until I become significantly richer…
I was the person who asked about repetition. I’m just past mid-point in the one you’re reviewing here and it is decidedly not repetitious. I’m afraid it’s the only other one I’ve found so far but I’ll be on the lookout and, yes, I do wish they’d be reprinted, as I’ve thoroughly enjoyed both. Not figured out who did it yet but I seldom work at that so I probably won’t. People doing solo treks on these mountains astounds me because I did Kilimanjaro a few years back—which I think the mountaineers would write off as ‘just hiking’—and wouldn’t imagine setting out alone. Thanks for recommending these as I doubt I would have picked them up otherwise.
I’m just reading the Youth Hostel Murders, which features Mrs (later Lady) Lewker, I hope we see more of her. Filthy is rapidly becoming one of my very favourite sleuths and he’s as GA as anyone could possibly want, surely? Personally if I had to name my 100 favourite books in what I think of as the style, I’m sure the best-represented 20-year period would be approx. 1935-55. Anyway, I really hope the GC books are reprinted as even the RMP editions are starting to shoot up in price on the second-hand market in the UK. I’m after Death Finds a Foothold but have yet to see one under £30, which is insane. I have Buttress (White Circle), Matterhorn (US hardback), Snowdon (Fontana paperback) and Hostel (RMP) but, barring something pretty fortuitous, that’ll be my lot until reprints happen. Fingers crossed.
I’ve got an original Foothold and Matterhorn and the rest of the RMP, along with Death Of A Weirdy. One thing that’s pleasing is that the later ones, Weirdy and Foothold, don’t show a drop in quality. Apparently Styles aka Carr stopped writing the series as he had run out of mountain murder ideas – he stopped in the sixties but he died this millennium!
As for reprints… I’m working on it. No promises but I’m working on it…
I too am working on this. Styles only died in 2005, amazingly. Hopefully I’ll find an RMP Foothold at a less than silly price but my chances of being able to afford any of the others are slim – very jealous of you having Weirdy – always three figures whenever I’ve seen them.
You do feel that the police could do worse than to cancel all leave whenever Filthy ventures much above sea level, don’t you?
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