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Friday 7 June 2019

‘Smallbone Deceased’ by Michael Gilbert

Published by The British Library,
10 January 2019. 
ISBN 978-0-7123-5297-0 (PB)

I first read this when it was reissued as an example of a good crime story from the late Golden Age.  It was originally published in 1950 and my first copy was published in 1972.  Now the British Library has re-republished it!

The discovery of the body of Mr. Smallbone in a deedbox (obviously a reasonably sizeable box which was well sealed) leads to an extensive police investigation at Horniman, Birley and Crane, lawyers who serve the highest of the land.  Henry Bohun is a newly qualified solicitor (and newly employed at H, B and C) who has an impressive portfolio of previous posts.  Henry becomes a legal advisor to the police in the investigation.  Inspector Hazelrigg has a highly competent team investigating the affairs of the very respectable legal firm and he trusts Henry as a stranger to that company and a friend of a sergeant in the army who had joined the police.  

The recent death of Abel Horniman from his weak heart further complicates matters.   But it is after another death that mystery is elucidated.   The reputation of the book as a classic of the genre is well deserved since it flows beautifully as the investigation reaches a successful conclusion.  The characters in the office are fully described with all their quirks.
Reviewer: Jennifer S. Palmer
Michael Gilbert’s books are well worth searching out if you haven’t read them before.  He varied his style and topics and rarely stayed with one detective.

Michael Gilbert (1912-2006) wrote thrillers, police procedurals and espionage novels that rank among the highest and most varied achievements of British crime writing in the second half of the twentieth century. A founding member of the Crime Writers' Association, Gilbert was for many years partner in a London law firm and drew on his knowledge of the law in writing his most acclaimed novel.
Jennifer Palmer Throughout my reading life crime fiction has been a constant interest; I really enjoyed my 15 years as an expatriate in the Far East, the Netherlands & the USA but occasionally the solace of closing my door to the outside world and sitting reading was highly therapeutic. I now lecture to adults on historical topics including Famous Historical Mysteries.

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