Monday, October 20, 2008

An Exmoor mystery: 'He Should Have Died Hereafter' by Cyril Hare

Whilst doing research on crime fiction in the South West of England I stumbled upon 'He Should Have Died Hereafter' by Cyril Hare, set mainly on Exmoor.

This book was published posthumously in 1957, and is a slim 140 pages - crime and mystery fiction could get away with being considerably shorter for much of the 20th century, it seems. Bannered as an Inspector Mallett mystery ( of which there were a further four) this story is in fact told mainly from the point of view of Hare's other series protagonist, Francis Pettigrew, a retired lawyer of the Queen's Bench.

This is a mystery of the old school: Hare was known for his ingenious plots, and as a lawyer and judge himself, his description of the legal process and finer points of law upon which his plot turns is clear and well-integrated.

The Exmoor setting is richly evoked and creatively employed, though he points out himself in an author's note that Exmoor is a real place but he has invented the specific localities in the story.

Hare deploys a couple of huge coincidences early on in the plot, but they are deftly introduced and did not trouble this reader over-much. 'He Should Have Died Hereafter' (despite the title, the plot owes nothing to 'Macbeth' - or his Lady) was an intriguing afternoon's read, and I have already ordered from the library two of Hare's other classic stories: 'Tragedy At Law' (one of H.R.F. Keating's 100 best crime and mystery books) and 'An English Murder' - apparently a twist on the isolated country-house murder.

Hare only wrote nine crime novels, but it's always pleasing to discover a 'new' writer of mystery puzzles of the classic kind - even if I am fifty years too late!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Northumberland stands in for Peak District & East Anglia: "Place Of Execution" by Val McDermid

Val McDermid's "A Place of Execution" - the first of her novels I ever read, nearly ten years ago - has been powerfully brought to life for ITV, starring Juliet Stevenson and Lee Ingleby.

The echoes of the Moors Murders, present in the novel, are absent in this dramatisation, and the location has mysteriously moved from the Peak District in Derbyshire to Northumberland, but nevertheless this is a compelling piece of drama.

Interestingly, Lee Ingleby also stars in another transplanted crime drama set in the 1960's - BBC's 'George Gently' series, based on the books by Alan Hunter. Norwich author Hunter set his many George Gently stories mainly in his home region of East Anglia, but for reasons best known to themselves the BBC located the stories several hundred miles north in Northumberland, and Lee Ingleby stars as Gently's brash sidekick DS John Bacchus. Ironically, the star of the show, Martin Shaw, is now based in Norfolk.