Friday, January 10, 2014

A Case for Mr. Crook: Anthony Gilbert

To be honest, I bought this book for the cover. It is a Green Door mystery published by Pyramid Books and it has a skeleton's hand on the cover (and a tiny skull on the door).

Anthony Gilbert is one of the pseudonyms used by Lucy Beatrice Malleson. She was a prolific author, writing from the mid-1920's into the early 1970's. Her first mysteries featured Scott Egerton, a British political leader. Later she started a long series featuring Arthur C. Crook, a Cockney solicitor.

Here is a description of Crook at Thrilling Detective:
Part of Crook's appeal is surely that he's so much clearly not just one of the people, and so for the people. No snooty Lord Mucky-muck pretensions here -- he's a lower-class Cockney, with questionable taste in clothing, and a weakness for vulgar, gaudy cars and beer. He's loud, obnoxious (and cheerfully sexist), but clearly devoted to his clients. One wag describes him as "a bright red face, bright red hair and a bright red car," and that about sums him up.
The original title of this book was Miss Pinnegar Disappears. Miss Pinnegar is an elderly nurse living with another retired nurse. She runs into Arthur Crook on the way home on a Sunday morning. He offers her a ride, and it turns out she knows of him and his work in helping the less fortunate who have problems with the law. Weeks later, she gets involved in a situation where she needs his advice. The wife of her nephew. thought to have died during an air raid in World War II, turns up at her doorstep out of the blue seeking help. 

There is not much of a mystery in this book. It seems pretty clear who the villains are; the story is more about whether Miss Pinnegar will be found, and there are no twists. There is much quirky humor in this book, a lot of which I did not fully understand, and one does have to suspend disbelief. I guess I would call this a light entertainment. On the plus side, one of the joys of this book is the characterizations. Both Miss Pinnegar and her nephew are entertaining. All of the characters seem a bit eccentric.

I read a  couple of reviews of other books featuring Arthur Crook in 1001 Midnights by Bill Pronzini and Marcia Muller. In at least one (Mr. Crook Lifts the Mask), the plot and characters sounded very similar to the one I read. The person in peril is an elderly spinster, and Mr. Crook calls her "Sugar".

Several other bloggers have reviewed mysteries by Anthony Gilbert and really liked them, so I think I just ran into one with less substance. I will try more of Anthony Gilbert's books.

15 comments:

  1. I read a couple of Anthony Gilbert's in the past, and I think felt rather as you did: that they were OK, but not that exciting. I think I'm going to invent a category: 'if I was stuck in a guest-house overnight with nothing to read, I'd be glad to pick up one of these. But I wouldn't go looking for one.' do you think that's a snappy title that will catch on ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Moira, I do think that is a good category and a good way to describe some reads. Entertaining but not deep. It actually moved very fast too, I was never bored. So another thing in its favor.

      Delete
  2. Tracy, I'm familiar with the author but not her pseudonymous books. Many characters particularly in detective mystery are eccentric which probably makes them that much more interesting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Prashant, it is true that many eccentric characters do show up a lot in mystery fiction. Often associated with humor.

      Delete
  3. I love eccentric and quirky. Will keep my open for her books when trolling used bookstores and garage/book sales!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Peggy, I do think you would like books by this authors. She wrote a lot of books, so you should be able to find some.

      Delete
  4. I think I might have bought the book for the cover too, Tracy. It's a great one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sarah, I love vintage paperbacks. And the Green Door Mysteries are a favorite.

      Delete
  5. Tracy - I do like that cover - I can see why it drew you in. The story sounds OIK too, although I'm not sure I'd be able to really 'dive in.' Still, it sounds as though you enjoyed it well enough.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Margot, I did like it fine, but a bit too whimsical for me. I am going find some of Anthony Gilbert's books that have good reviews, for comparison.

      Delete
  6. I think I have read a lot of books that just seem to pass the time until the next great book comes along. Nothing too awful, nothing too fantastic....but I never feel like I wasted my time either. I probably won't be tracking down this author TBH.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No problem, Col, I don't think this author is for you. But I am willing to forgive an author a lot if the book is short and moves fast and keeps me reading.

      Delete
  7. I am so sorry that you didn't enjoy it much, Tracy. I have been lucky because the first book that I read of her: The Clock in the Hatbox - had such a knock-out punch that I became a devoted fan of hers. I do hope that the next book of hers that you read turns out to be better.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. neer, I am definitely trying more books by this author. I will find some I like, I am sure.

      Delete
  8. Tracy, I read this one back in the days before blogging so I don't really remember it much (and I have that Green Door edition myself!). I will say that Gilbert is hit or miss for me. Of the ones I've read recently I've really enjoyed about half--the rest were just okay.

    ReplyDelete