My latest entry for Patti Abbott’s series of Forgotten Books is by an author who is very far from forgotten. Nina Bawden is a writer of considerable distinction, now in her 80s, but it’s often overlooked that, early in her career, she published a couple of detective novels.
I came across The Odd Flamingo when it appeared in a series of Jubilee reprints celebrating 50 years of the Collins Crime Club, back in 1980. Julian Symons selected and introduced a dozen titles, many of which were relatively obscure. All are worth seeking out, especially the books by Shelley Smith and C.Daly King.
The Odd Flamingo is a first person story, narrated by solicitor Will Hunt. Humphrey Stone, a respectable head teacher, gets himself into embarrassing difficulties and his wife calls on Will for help. Murder follows, and Will’s enquiries lead to a strange and disreputable club called The Odd Flamingo. The book first appeared in 1954, and inevitably aspects of it are dated, but Bawden’s ability to tell a good story is an enduring strength.
Symons’ comments are characteristically astute: ‘The fact that it is the work of a young writer, lacking experience although not skill, shows at times. Will seems occasionally too naive to be true, and the club...has a slightly unreal air. Partly, no doubt, this was because Nina Bawden didn’t know such clubs well...’ But he liked the book (‘an ingenious puzzle and an interesting novel’) , and so did I.