Every now and then I grind to a halt. It doesn’t happen often. Maybe I’ve got a cold or maybe I am under the weather for some other reason. Or maybe I just look at the tottering pile that is my intray, I looked at my inbox stuffed with emails, I look at the overflowing laundry basket and I think ‘the hell with it.’ I try to have a suitable book in store for this contingency – or more than one book. So it was that I retired to bed earlier this week with Death Walks in Eastrepps by Francis Beeding. Beeding was recommended to me by Martin Edwards, the go-to man for classic Golden Age crime fiction, and I’d been saving this book for when I needed a treat. The cat joined me and draped himself over my legs: he doesn’t understand reading, but he does understand snoozing and is always happy to have a companion.
Francis Beeding was really two writers so is a member of a select group of crime-writers that includes Emma Lathen and Ellery Queen. My copy of Death Walks in Eastrepps is published by Arcturus in their Crime Classics series and is an attractive edition. It was first published in 1931, but is surprisingly contemporary in its concerns – a serial killer, the power of the press to influence the course of a murder investigation, a crooked financier – I did guess the plot twist, but no matter. It was an interesting and unusual motive for murder. The blurb claims that ‘this thrilling page-turner was once pronounced one of the ten greatest detective stories of all time.’ That is pitching it a bit high, but it’s very readable and hadn’t dated. And it was a particular pleasure to read it from cover to cover in one sitting, something I don’t do often enough.