CHRISTIANNA BRAND – Fog of Doubt. Carroll & Graf, paperback reprint, 1984. Hardcover edition: Charles Scribner’s Son, US, 1953. First published in the UK as London Particular, hc, 1952. Earlier US paperback: Dell #881, 1953.

   On the night of a terrific London fog, a murder is committed, and only a handful people could have done it – excluding the ubiquitous tramp, of course. Inspector Cockrill’s problem is that all of them have alibis and/or no motive.

   This is supposedly a classic of detection, in which it all comes down to the last line, but in my opinion? I’m not so sure.

   Either it was a spontaneous crime, a chance opportunity quickly taken, or a devious scheme completely planned in advance. It can’t be both, and as far as I can see, the ending just doesn’t work. The events described are simply in the wrong order.

   Worse, a conversation a police officer overhears on pages 93-94 reveals quite a bit of information they, the police, could have used, but it’s Never Mentioned Again. (In a bit of Confusion on my part, I thought the police must have been in on the killing…!?)


   Cockrill has barely any presence in the story at all — I got the feeling the case would have ended exactly the same way, with or without him. The tradition of Christie-Carr-Queen is mentioned on the front cover, but if this is one of Brand’s best, it is easily seen why she’s mostly forgotten today.

PostScript:   This is the kind of commentary you’re forced to resort to when you don’t want to give too much of the story away, but when the story is essentially the ending, what else can you do?

   — Reprinted from Mystery*File #35, November 1993, somewhat revised.

[UPDATE] 05-15-10.   What this kind of negative review on my part makes me want to do today is find my copy of the book and read it again, especially since the author is still well regarded today.

   I seldom pan a book as severely as I did this one, so what I’d really like to know now if it’s really as bad as I thought it was then. Did I read it wrong? Was there something I missed? I don’t know, and I wish I did.

[UPDATE #2] 05-17-10.   I’ve just posted Marcia Miller’s review of Green for Danger, one of Christianna Brand’s earlier mysteries (1945). I mention this because I quoted from her review in my Comment #2.

    I’ve also belatedly discovered that Kevin Killian reviewed Fog of Doubt here on the blog about a year and a half ago. He goes much further into detail about the plot, finds some of the same problems with it, but overall he liked the book much more than I did. Follow the link, and you’ll see what I mean.