Henry Todd, secretary to Minister of the Crown Sir Adrian Lamport, was expecting something simple – just catching a boat from a dock in Liverpool to take him to the Middle East on a diplomatic mission. Yes, there’s a war on, but he wasn’t expecting to trip over a dead body that some has branded with the “crooked cross of the Nazis”, meet the spymaster Gideon Hazel aka the Poet, get shot at, find a coded message, get thrown overboard within a day of getting on his boat, wash up on the nearby Welsh shore, meet Hazel again and then find himself recruited to a secret mission to help thwart some traitors. And that’s about the first thirty or so pages…
As Henry’s adventures take in a trip to Egypt and then back to Snowdonia, finding up Sir Abercrombie “Filthy” Lewker and true love along the way, leading to a confrontation with the primary traitor. On top of a mountain. Well, the title gives that bit away…
A little explanation – readers will have spotted my recent obsession with Glyn Carr (real name Showell Styles), a long out-of-print author of fifteen mysteries featuring Sir Abercrombie Lewker, featuring fifteen different ways of killing someone up a mountain. Before that (and after in fact), Styles wrote a bucketload of adventure and spy stories, not all of them set up a mountain, and three of them (or maybe four according to gadetection) feature Gideon Hazel and Lewker as wartime spies working for “Column Six”, a sort-of independent band of spies working alongside British Intelligence.
Anyway, as I’m using my Bodleian card to take a look at those Glyn Carr mysteries that I can’t afford to buy (i.e. most of them), I thought it would be worth a look at these early appearances of Lewker, and whether they should be grouped together with the Glyn Carr titles. On the strength of this one, it’s a solid… maybe.
There is a whodunit element here, although I’d be amazed if absolutely anyone would be surprised as the identity of the villain. It’s much more of an adventure – the Egypt trip really doesn’t add much to the plot apart from some pages – but it’s all rather fun. There’s one brief passage that manages to be racist towards two separate nationalities, namely the Egyptians and the Australians, but apart from that, it’s all quite harmless and fun.
Lewker is basically how he is in his crime-solving debut, Death On Milestone Buttress, so quoting Shakespeare quite a bit and getting people to call him “Filthy” – for my non-British readers, it’s from the phrase “Filthy Lucre”, not because of his washing habits or lack of them. He’s a bit more action-oriented, taking part in at least one sword fight and killing at least one person “in self-defence”. He’s about forty here and has been an actor, both Shakespearean and in panto, apparently. Having said that, this is far more Henry’s story – he narrates it – and he’s a fun, if unlikely protagonist, going from office boy (admittedly an ex-international rugby playing office boy) to mountain-climbing action here in the space of less than 200 pages. It’s clear by the end of the tale that this is the end of his story, but Hazel (who really isn’t in that much) and Lewker return in at least two more thrillers.
Even if plotwise this isn’t my usual fare, Styles/Carr is a really enjoyable writer to read. His descriptions, especially of mountain stuff, is written with real passion and he has a gentle wit that is helps the book through any lulls in the action – not that this story every really stops for breath.
And one other thing – this contains one of the best meta-jokes I’ve seen in any book, let alone one from 1945…
And if this isn’t your thing – be back tomorrow for a proper mystery featuring Sir Abercrombie Lewker. And an abominable snowman…
Thank you for this post but I think it will be a bit of book safari to find this author’s work. Hope you have a great holiday season and your hard work is very much appreciated.
Aw, thanks. And yes – there are a few affordable copies of the Carr books that were reprinted – Milestone Buttress in particular. Have to try and do something about that…
Wait. “Filthy lucre” is a British phrase? I swear I used to hear my parents use this all the time. Hope eventually to be able to find another Glynn Carr I can afford. Liked the first two I read very much.
Oh, it might not be. But I imagine it’s not a 100% global one…
I’m looking forward to your review of A Corpse at Camp Two! That one has been on my wishlist for ages and highlighted it a few months ago in a post with novels and writers who need to be reprinted ASAP. Hopefully, DSP will adopt Glyn Carr and finish what Rue Morgue Press started.
A Corpse At Camp Two is up to peruse – the review, that is. Out of curiosity, were you interested for the sort of locked room, because if so, look elsewhere…
The term “filthy lucre” comes from the Bible Titus 1.10-11 (KJV)
“For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake.”
The use of the word circumcision indicates whom they are referring to !
LikeLiked by 1 person
I think the English phrase comes specifically from the King James Version of the Bible, and is a translation of a Greek phrase. “Lucre” is from Latin via Old French and is where we get the word “lucrative”. I love the way even Mrs (later Lady) Lewker calls her husband Filthy.