Just a quick one today. Shelley Smith was mentioned in Martin Edwards’ invaluable “The Story of Classic Crime in 100 books” and so I decided to give this one a whirl.
Lancelot Jones, a self-important twenty four year old, is on his way to a tutoring job when his plane makes an unscheduled landing in a desert. While waiting for the plane to be repaired, he accepts the hospitality of an distinguished-looking woman who has a tale to tell.
This is a short book but a little cracker of a story. Jones is a rather stuffy young gentleman who believes that novels are ‘A pernicious infection of the mind’, but, never fear, he is not the focus of the story but merely taking the part of the guest reeled neatly in by the Ancient Mariner, in the person of Alva Hines. Her tale of a Victorian upbringing, a wicked stepmother, adultery, intrigue and murder is immediately gripping. The enjoyment here is in the storytelling, the period detail and the characterisation, all leading to an inevitable death but a not-so-inevitable (but fairly-clued) conclusion.
Shelley Smith is a good writer and she does both plot and character very well, with a nice touch of humour. I would definitely look out for more by her in the future.