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.