Death of Anton – Alan Melville – Another British Library Crime Classic

There has been a gap in posts caused by a line breakage – our somewhat overgrown area of garden through which the phone line stretches had to be investigated. The rest of the garden looks wonderful thanks to the efforts of Northernvicar, but perfection is difficult to achieve!

This is another keenly awaited edition from the British Library Crime Classic series. I actually went into the bookshop at the British Library the other day, only to discover I had the full set so far! It has not quite filled a shelf, yet…

I had high hopes of this book having enjoyed the comedy of Quick Curtain so much recently. This novel from Alan Melville also features Detective – Inspector Minto of Scotland Yard, and while he sits light to police procedure and back up once more, I did not find it as funny as the previous murder mystery. Quite possibly this is due to the absence of his son, with whom he enjoys all the fun and games in Quick Curtain, but he does have family represented here; his brother who is a Catholic priest ( important to the story) and Claire, his younger sister whose wedding he is due to organise/attend/go in fear of throughout.

The main action takes place in a circus, where Anton is the short lived tiger tamer and many nefarious activities are taking place. There is murder, mayhem and mauling, as Minto tries to sort out what is going on, and his list of suspects gets shorter. Minto has to get out of some narrow scrapes, and not all relate to writing a speech for the wedding. He has to become acquainted with a dubious pawn shop as well as the inhabitants of the circus. The setting of a circus is soon evidently well chosen, as the dangers of live acts involving animals and heights add to the danger to the hapless detective. When he actually sits to watch the performance he discovers the danger of sitting in the cheap seats as he leans back too far and has to be rescued.

This is a good read, as are most of this series, as the plot becomes increasingly convoluted and coincidental. It is not a high literary effort, and I daresay the plot does not bear too much examination. It is funny, and absorbing, the sort of book to be kept on one side for a free day as you will undoubtedly want to read on. The death of characters is a little too easily dismissed, which gives Melville ample opportunity to make ironic comments at audiences disappointed by the absence of serious injury in any particular performance. I get the impression that this book was as enjoyable to write as read, as the author has fun getting his character covered in mud, dismissing non Scottish porridge, as well as discoursing on the personalities of performing animals. Such circuses are a thing of the past, with their bad treatment of animals and performers, but this book is a very enjoyable historical murder mystery, and well worth seeking out for the character of Minto alone.


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