Author: Bernard J. Farmer (introduction by Martin Edwards) –
Publisher: Soundings –
Genre: Crime, Noir –
Overall rating: 5/5 –
Writing: 5/5 –
Duration: 8:33 (medium) –
Narrator: Nick Rowlinson –
Narrator/performance: 5/5 –
Impressions: 5/5 –
Performance errors: 0/5 –
Complexity/reading level: 4/5 –
This book was originally published in 1950s and made a smashing come back in 2022, thanks to the British Library Crime Classics collection. It is a wonderful example of a classic crime novel but with a peculiar flourish. It is beautifully and masterfully performed. It is funny, scary, odd and lovely. I am very happy to be able to review it, as this book for many years was more of a rare and sought after commodity rather than being a gripping crime story, shared with a large public as it should be. Introduction by Martin Edwards gives the book a back story, a depth, showing the life of the author as well as the story of the book since it was published in 1956.
There are certain odd, noir elements to the book. There are elements of the supernatural (fortunately, quite resolved), social duty, conscience, common friendliness and generosity, manipulation, survival, honor and passion. There are some out-of-date ideas about psychology and science. There is the death penalty and the Old Bailey. Bernard J. Farmer worked with these elements quite freely and then sketching rather than studying. The book has the ambiance of “A Christmas Carol” or perhaps even “Alice in Wonderland”, where the characters are somewhat theatrical, or even reminding of the ballet genre. Our story revolves around books, thus remaining colorful and focused.
I am particularly fond of this performance by Nick Rowlinson. It captures and develops oddities and features of the characters, making the story more humoristic and giving it a very measured, calm pace. It is not a thriller in this rendition. It is a classic crime story. It is made – to last (as it most certainly will). I would recommend this for an easy, relaxed reading session.
Covers made for the British Library Crime Classics collection are almost always very nice to look at and also very accurate, even though they are made with already existing works of art. This is probably based on a vintage photo from 1926 of Bloomsbury, London. A very fine cover.