Nemesis at Raynham Parva is the rather grand title of my Forgotten Book for today. The book was published in 1929, and the author was J. J. Connington, who is one of those Golden Age writers who definitely deserves to be better known. The American edition was called Grim Vengeance, and this sums up the story pretty well.
Sir Clinton Driffield – one of the toughest-minded of all Golden Age detectives - is travelling to visit his sister after a period spent abroad, when he comes across a strange confrontation in the road. One of the men involved is Argentinian, and when he arrives at his destination, he finds that his niece has recently married another man from the Argentine. The tiny village of Raynham Parva is soon overflowing with foreign incomers, as a mysterious character who appears to have been a foreign agent also turns up.
This is an unusual, and rather curiously structured book. The meat of it is in the final section, in which an elaborate murder is committed. Connington provides a startling explanation of what has happened that is the most memorable feature of the whole story, and arguably also a milestone in the development of Golden Age fiction.
There are several touches which remind us that Connington was a scientist, and a man with a highly practical turn of mind. The book is a reminder, too, that writers of that period were intensely interested in the concept of justice, and how to achieve it – especially if the orthodox legal routes were not available. I can’t claim this book is a masterpiece, but it remains perfectly readable, and its historical interest is significant. And I think Connington’s willingness to experiment with the detective novel form is a sign of his quality.