I’ve mentioned before the guilty pleasure I take from the twisty mysteries of Francis Durbridge, and my latest contribution to Patti Abbott’s series of Forgotten Books is his 1960 book, The Scarf. I read it immediately after the new Kate Atkinson, and of course Atkinson is a much finer literary stylist than Durbridge. But he really could tell a story.
This isn’t a Paul Temple thriller – the detective work is done by Detective Inspector Harry Yates of the Hertfordshire CID, a rather interesting cop, who is not afraid to bend the rules every now and then. Yates is a laid-back man who is quietly charismatic, and he needs all his wits about him when he is called to investigate the strangling of a young model and wannabe actress, Fay Collins. The murder weapon was the eponymous scarf, and soon – in a characteristic Durbridge touch – a scarf is sent to the police. But is it the one that was used to kill the girl?
There is no shortage of potential suspects. These include Fay’s disabled brother, a farmer, an artist, a dressmaker and a tycoon. A teenage boy and the local vicar may also have something to hide. There are plot twists aplenty, and suspicion shifts rapidly from one person to another.
As ever with Durbridge, we have a few scenes in night club, a setting which he obviously thought brimming with mysterious potential. The tycoon is suspiciously keen to fix up an alibi for the murder, but in due course his plans fall apart when the person chosen to provide the alibi is found dead. But who is the culprit? I enjoyed this unpretentious thriller, written by a highly accomplished craftsman.