Tue 18 Oct 2016
by Thomas Baird:
FRANCIS BEEDING – Death Walks in Eastrepps. Mystery League, US, hardcover, 1931. First published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton, hardcover, 1931. Dover, softcover, 1980. Arcturus Publishing, softcover, 2011.
At one time Death Walks in Eastrepps was regarded as one of the ten greatest detective novels. Well, even mystery critics can make a slip once in a while. This book is quite competent, it rises above the humdrum, but the writing does not contain the verve to make it a classic.
A serial murderer terrorizes the seaside resort village of Eastrepps in Norfolk. The local police, led by Inspector Protheroe and Sergeant Ruddock, search for a brutal homicidal maniac. As the bodies count up to six, Chief Inspector Wilkins of Scotland Yard is called in.
The relationships between the East Anglian residents, the individual policemen, and the press are explored. The tangled motives and alibis are sorted out. Public pressure mounts, and results in a false arrest. Then strong police work brings a man unjustly to trial. The woman in his life endeavors to clear his name while the courtroom drama heats up. This is a complex story, full of surprises.
Francis Beeding is the collaborative pseudonym of two English literary men, John Leslie Palmer and Hilary Adam St. George Saunders. Together they wrote thirty-one criminous novels, about half of them spy stories featuring Secret Service agent Colonel Alastair Granby; among the tales are The Six Proud Walkers (1928), Hell Let Loose (1937), and The Twelve Disguises (1942).
They also wrote The House of Dr. Edwardes (1927), which Alfred Hitchcock transformed into his 1945 Gregory Peck/Ingrid Bergman film, Spellbound.
Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007. Copyright © 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.
Bibliographic Note: There was only one later outing for Inspector Wilkins, that being Murder Intended (Hodder, UK, 1932; Little Brown, US, 1932).