“So…..” – as the detective in my latest green Penguin would say – instead of doing “proper” reading I’m off on another vintage crime! In my defence, this came about as I’m considering embarking on C.P. Snow’s “Strangers and Brothers” sequence as I feel I ought to attack some classic 20th century literature. But I read that Snow’s first book was a crime novel and decided it might be a good way to get to know the author!

Our narrator is Ian Capel who, at 63, is about 40 years older than most of the other characters. Ian has been invited to join a group of friends sailing the Norfolk Broads on a wherry. The skipper, Roger Mills, is a friend and the other young people are mostly known to Ian, except for one of the young ladies.

Before long, Roger is found dead at the tiller of the wherry, and suspicion falls on his six fellow passengers. Ian, who has a soft spot for Avice, one of the young ladies, is appalled by the circumstances and calls in a friend of his by the name of Finbow, who has been a civil servant out East and has experience with puzzles. Finbow, with his tea-drinking ritual and inscrutability, is a worthy addition to the canon of Golden Age detectives and it’s a shame he only made one appearance. Additional characters, in the form of a mad Irish police sergeant, Aloysius Birrell, and a housekeeper who spits venom at the perceived loose behaviour of the young people, add quite a lot of humour to the book.

I was a little unsure about Snow’s style to start with and I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. Firstly, I thought it was a little cold and flat – maybe I was imagining this because he’s known as a scientist as well as a novelist. However, as I read on I got used to his style and involved with the characters. Finbow came across a little bit stylised, almost as if someone was trying to create a quirky detective, but he was very convincing by the end. The other characters also filled out a lot, and the book was very well written and entertaining with all the essential Golden Age elements – plan of the location, map, red herrings et al.

The denouement was quite dramatically handled and fortunately I didn’t guess who did it (although I did guess one major plot element). So this was a worthy addition to my shelves of green Penguins and an enjoyable one at that. Now I just have to summon up the stamina to embark on “Strangers and Brothers” – but I’ll have to finish the Elizabeth Bowen I’m currently reading first!