J.J. Connington was a reliable Golden Age writer, and it’s rather surprising that In Whose Dim Shadow, published in 1935, truly is a Forgotten Book. The copy I’ve just read, generously lent to me by a keen collector, boasts a wonderful pictorial dust jacket with a map of the scene of the crime, perfectly in keeping with Golden Age tradition.
This novel features his regular “Holmes and Watson” duo, the Chief Constable Sir Clinton Driffield, and his friend Wendover. They are upper class figures, but decent men who are not snobbish – in fact, their attitude towards characters who are dismissive of working class people is one of disgust. This slant on the class system is a reminder that class divide issues in Britain were, and perhaps still are, rather more complex than they might seem.
Connington is not known for his characterisation, but there are a number of points in the story when he makes observations about human nature that I thought were quite acute. And as detective novelist, he strikes me as under-rated. This case involves the discovery of a body in a flat, and the victim proves to have been a bigamist.
The mystery is cleverly contrived, with a neat story-line, not too much padding (though I admit the pace isn’t electric) and a good solution. The only real snag is that Connington is so keen to play fair with the reader that, to my mind, he gives too many clues and makes it too easy to solve the problem. But it’s an enjoyable story, all the same.