William F. Deeck

ANTHONY GILBERT Death in the Blackout

  ANTHONY GILBERT – Death in the Blackout. Smith & Durell, US, hardcover, 1943. Paperback reprint: Bantam #51, 1946. Previously published in the UK as The Case of the Tea-Cosy’s Aunt: Collins Crime Club, hc, 1942; Collins White Circle, pb, 1944.

   It has been twenty years or so since I read an Arthur Crook novel by Anthony Gilbert, and those I had read had been from (I shall use the masculine gender to avoid confusion, though Gilbert was, of course, a female) his later period. The novels were supposed to be amusing, and I seldom found them so. Gilbert apparently did better in his earlier works.

   Death in the Blackout is one of the early cases of Arthur Crook, lawyer. Whether Crook is a solicitor or a barrister, should anyone be curious, is information not provided by the author in this novel. Frankly, I don’t recall his ever appearing in court; he seems to be primarily an investigator.

   Crook’s flat is in a building with several other occupants who are almost as strange as he is. A woman who sees spies in the most improbable disguises occupies the ground floor and basement, while flat No.3 boasts the presence of T. Kersey, whom Crook immediately begins calling “Tea-Cosy” and who is a bit unsteady when it comes to the nature of time. Flat No.2 is unoccupied.

ANTHONY GILBERT Death in the Blackout

   Tea-Cosy asks Crook to help him check out his flat when he finds his key is missing. Therein he and Crook find a hat of sort that could belong only to Tea-Cosy’s aunt, but the aunt is not there. Later on, a young lady checking out the unoccupied flat in the hope of renting it discovers the aunt’s body.

   Tea-Cosy disappears before the body is found. Since Crook has adopted Tea-Cosy as a client, and Crook’s clients are always not guilty even when they are, Crook begins investigating. Even when Tea-Cosy, or someone dressed to look like Tea-Cosy, nearly kills the young lady who comes back to the supposedly unoccupied apartment a second time, Crook knows that Tea-Cozy is innocent.

   And, of course, Crook is right. Since there are only a few suspects, the guilty are rather evident, but it is quite interesting, and occasionally amusing, how Crook works it all out from the author’s fair clues.

From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 9, No. 5, Sept-Oct 1987.