Monday, 2 May 2016

FRAIL ON NORTH CIRCULAR - MACGREGOR URQUHART


BOARDMAN 380
FIRST PRINTING 1962
LONDON
COVER ART BY MCLOUGHLIN

The body was discovered in the River Roding, not two hundred yards from the busy North Circular road. It was that of a young redhead, and it was dressed only in underclothing. Cause of death was immediately obvious-a stab wound in the heart. Sergeant Renning discovered the body. Chief Inspector Smarles got the case-and Renning along with it.

A curious man, Smarles. Untidy, scruffy almost, careless of externals, sometimes oblivious of his physical surroundings, yet all the time aware on the five planes of awareness of what really matters.

His investigations centre on a dingy restaurant, the type of place known to its habitues as a caff. Here the weak-minded son of the manageress entertains hid friends-the boys already well on the road to delinquency, the girls matching them stride for stride. There is, too, a senile seller of call girl lists, a dim ex-pug, a tired and faded prostitute. And behind them all, manipulating them as though they were puppets, the sinister figure of the Guv'nor. But everyone is too frightened to give Smarles his name.

So Smarles-a dirty rozzer as he often tells himself-investigates. But in a way quite strange to most fictional detectives. He listens to the talk of delinquent youth, he puts up with the officiousness of Sergeant Renning. He thinks bitter thoughts about his superiors, is offensive to his juniors. And finally, he pounces.

Here is a novel as fresh and original as the conception of Chief Inspector Smarles. The Chief Inspector will probably never be promoted, but readers will not complain so long as he remains the same wholly original figure.

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