I've mentioned The Norwich Victims, by Francis Beeding, several times in previous blog posts. It's timely to feature the novel as today's Forgotten Book, since Arcturus have now brought out a mass market paperback edition. I'm very glad to see this - not least because a while ago, I encouraged their very pleasant and enthusiastic crime editor to take a look at both this book and Henry Wade's Lonely Magdalen. I'm delighted to say that Arcturus subsequently decided to bring these two excellent stories back for a new generation of readers to enjoy.
Having read the book before, I knew the ingenious plot twist that makes The Norwich Victims so special, but I found that this did not spoil my enjoyment. Rather, I had the chance to admire the skill with which Beeding (a pen-name for two writing friends) skated over rather thin ice. I also felt that the smooth and highly readable writing style has stood the test of time. The same cannot be said of all detective novels of a similar vintage.This story first appeared in 1931, and the duo's few detective stories are very good indeed. I haven't yet tried their spy thrillers.
Two separate storylines gradually merge. John Throgmorton is a dodgy stockbroker who lives with a pretty younger woman called Hermione. Into their clutches fall a woman who has a winning ticket in a French lotery of very great value. And Throgmorton decides to kill her for it, so that Hermione can impersonate her and grab the money. Meanwhile, at the school where the victim worked, a young woman, the niece of the school's owner, Robert Hedlam, has fallen for George Martin, a clean-cut cop who is put in charge of the murder case.
There are plenty of plot complications, and the pace is excellent from start to finish. Really, this book is a model of its kind. I accept that the culprit's psychology is not explored fully, and if the story were being rewritten today, this gap would need to be filled. But in the whole scheme of things,it doesn't matter much. The Norwich Victims is a very clever and entertaining book and a worthy addition to the list of Arcturus Crime Classics.