Sunday, 9 August 2015

Review - Joan Champion - Incidental Murder - London, MacDonald - 1946 ?

Joan Champion - Incidental Murder - MacDonald - Undated Hardback - Undated, but said to be from 1946

I imagine book reviews are far from fashionable these days but I don`t plan to let that discourage me !

Joan Champion`s tale of  secret tunnels, murdered men with false identities, espionage, intrigue and much else is sometimes confusing, at other times just plain daft. Nevertheless, I have to admit I`ve become attached to it.

It`s not for everyone - most modern readers will feel it lacks pace and I can`t imagine anyone thinking it`s an example of great novel-writing. Still, it has a certain charm.

In just one area it has accidentally become modern is in the personality of one character, Thea, a plain clothes policewoman. Attractive, assertive, determined and intelligent she is clearly a great deal more focussed than central character Dan.

 I very  much doubt that this was a contrived effect on the part of the author, but it is interesting, and unusual for the time.

One particular scene seems particularly in tune with modern tastes.  

As the story progresses, Dan becomes more and more interested in Thea in a way that has nothing to do with Police work. Shortly after the two have had a brief encounter with a pair of villains, Dan is left musing on his love interest, reflecting that his ideas about "the sort of domestic hearth scene that he had always associated with the married state" may have to be revised if he takes up with this forceful female.

She turns to him and asks if he`s "wishing the same thing I am" . By now he knows her well enough to respond "somehow I don`t think so." How right he is !  While he`s been reflecting on his romantic aspirations towards her, she has been wishing that one of the villains had tried to hit her with a spanner he was carrying. "Then we`d have had something to grab him for. " !

Dialogue like that from a character like Thea, is so de rigeur these days it`s pretty much a cliché. In 1946 it must have been very unusual. I could only speculate why Champion introduced this element - unless anyone knows more than I do ?

This book may test your patience a bit in places but overall, it`s a good read, and one you should be able to pick up cheaply online.

I believe this was Joan Champions` only book and as far as I can tell I`m the first person to post anything about it on the internet. If anyone does know anything about the author I would be interested to hear from you.

If you are fond of vintage detection, you may like to visit another pet project of mine, The Sexton Blake Blog ( ) . Unfortunately it`s been neglected in recent times but I hope to do something about that soon.

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