A Question of Proof by Nicholas Blake

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A Question of Proof by Nicholas Blake

Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A period piece with excellent writing. It's a must read if you have any interest in crime writing from this period.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: April 1935
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 978-0099565352

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Wemyss was that boy - and all schools have them, even now - who is universally hated. Neither masters at Sudeley Hall, nor his fellow pupils could stand him and to make matters worse he was the nephew and ward of the headmaster, the Rev. Percival Vale. When the boy was found strangled on the school sports day there wasn't exactly universal rejoicing but it was more because of the knowledge of the problems which this would cause for the school than because of any sorrow. The prime suspects were Michael Evans, the English teacher and Hero Vale, the young wife of the middle-aged headmaster who had been kissing in the haystack where the boy's body was found. Evans has one hope and that's his friend, Nigel Strangeways, nephew of the Assistant Commissioner of Scotland Yard and a renowned private investigator.

It's a period piece - first published in 1935 - but none the worse for that. I had the sense of being taken back to a better time (corpses aside) with more honest values. The plot is clever but not without its problems - the possibility that one of the boys might have been responsible for the death of Wemyss is dismissed far too easily - and the characterisation is fine where the men (or boys) are concerned, but Hero Vale is vapid in the extreme and I felt annoyed whenever she appeared.

There is, though, one point to make this book a must-read for anyone interested in crime fiction from this period. Nicholas Blake is the pen name of Poet Laureate Cecil Day-Lewis and the writing is superb. Take this, for instance, as Michael Evans ponders the effect which a divorce for Hero would have on his teaching career:

For parents, however well acquainted with the divorce court they might be themselves, had a fixed antipathy to handing over their children to be educated by co-respondents.

Not a word is wasted and every sentence has the feel of having been crafted. Reading is a real pleasure and even the shortcomings will pale into insignificance. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending acopy to the Bookbag.

For another crime writer from the same period we can recommend Gladys Mitchell.

Buy A Question of Proof by Nicholas Blake at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Question of Proof by Nicholas Blake at Amazon.co.uk.

Buy A Question of Proof by Nicholas Blake at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Question of Proof by Nicholas Blake at Amazon.com.


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