My Forgotten Book for today was published in 1977. Desmond Cory (a pseudonym) was a prolific writer of thrillers who occasionally dabbled in psychological suspense. Bennett was his last foray into that field, and I suspect that it was not a particularly successful book. It is, however, by any standards a pretty extraordinary piece of work.
Part of the book takes the form of a journal, ostensibly written by a detective novelist called William Bennett. He has gone missing in Spain, and a young cop called Hunter has come out to try and find him, in connection with the death of an au pair girl back in Britain.
The case has some echoes of the Lord Lucan case, but Cory’s concern is not to offer a “solution” to that famous mystery, but rather to indulge in an intellectual game with the reader. Are there two journals, are there two men claiming to be Bennett? And does Hunter have a close personal connection with the man he is... hunting?
I first read this book not long after it came out. I was disappointed by its anti-climactic nature, and I suspect most other readers shared my frustration. At least one reviewer described the book as boring. But on re-readng it, I had more sympathy with Cory’s attempt to do something very different with the crime novel. It’s certainly intelligent, original and unrepeatable. And there are some fascinating allusions to classic detective fiction – such as The Wraith, an obscure book by Philip Macdonald – which are not fully developed, but which somehow give the book a bit more depth. Bennett may be a failure, but it’s an intriguing failure and is well worth inspection – as long as you don’t expect the orthodox.