Tag Archives: Roy Lewis

‘The Geordie Murder,’ by Roy Lewis

There’s a feeling I get when I’m reading a book and not really enjoying it, but it seems like I ought to be. Like one of those modern masterpieces they assign you in college, where you have it on authority that it’s good, but you don’t get it.

I’m not sure whether The Geordie Murder, by Roy Lewis is like that or not. Or what that says about it, or me.

Eric Ward is a former Newcastle (England) policeman. He had to leave the force when he developed glaucoma. He’s seeing again now after surgery, but he’s become a lawyer. He’s also married to a very wealthy younger woman, but refuses her offers to work for her company. He prefers to maintain a struggling private practice serving the “little people” who get overrun by the system.

A local official asks for his help trying to make a case against a loan shark. Eric tries, but even the victims won’t help. They distrust the law more than they dislike the moneylender – and they’re afraid of him.

Meanwhile, a young girl is kidnapped. Her non-custodial mother is the daughter of a tycoon, but her father is an unemployed fellow who happens to be one of the victims of the loan shark (some complicated back story is necessary to justify this plot element). He promises Eric he’ll give evidence, if only Eric can find his daughter again.

My problem with The Geordie Murder (which is an older novel, from back in the 80s) is that is was slow. It seemed to me the author was sauntering through passages that a more skilled mystery writer would reduce to a sentence – or skip entirely. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by recent trends in fiction.

And the climactic showdown – well, it was so low key that I figured it was just a preliminary scene. But nope. Story over.

Author Lewis has a good feeling for characters, and knows how to avoid black and white portrayals. He also has a sympathetic heart for the urban poor. But he used too many words describing these things, in my opinion.

Your mileage may vary. Only minor cautions for subject matter.

‘A Cotswolds Murder,’ by Roy Lewis

When I bought Roy Lewis’s A Cotswolds Murder, I’d forgotten that I’d bought another volume in the Inspector Crow series (first published in the 1970s) and reviewed it some time back. I wasn’t terribly impressed with that one. I liked this one quite a lot better. I might even become a fan.

Chuck Lindop was a man on the margins of civil society. A con man, a charmer, a would-be burglar, he held down a respectable job as manager of a “caravan site” (what Americans would call a trailer park). But he dreamed of the big score that would make him rich – and he wasn’t above resorting to violence when charm wouldn’t do the job.

So it’s no great surprise when his body is found in front of his caravan, his skull bashed in by a crowbar. And there’s no shortage of suspects with motives to kill him – spurned lovers, jealous husbands, victims of his cons, and angry former associates. But the police have a hard time working out who had opportunity to kill him, based on the comings and goings at the site that night.

So they call in Inspector John Crow of Scotland Yard. (By the way, I read some time back that this never actually happens. Scotland Yard is a metropolitan police service, and does not provide consultation for departments in the provinces. But the visiting inspector is a hoary trope of English mysteries, so what are we to do?) Inspector Crow is tall and skeletally thin, with a bald head. He looks like a vulture, but he’s an empathetic man. His great advantage as an investigator is his sympathetic understanding of human nature.

Author Lewis does an excellent job of fooling the reader with red herrings in this story, and tops it all with a surprising – but dramatically satisfactory – final surprise.

I enjoyed A Cotswolds Murder quite a lot. I recommend it, and no cautions are necessary.

‘The Woods Murder,’ by Roy Lewis

Inspector John Crow is a tall, ungainly man. He never looks like he fits in anywhere, and even less when he’s called in to a small town to take over a murder investigation from the locals. They have a murder case to deal with already – an unusual circumstance – so they’ll have to endure his presence, and that of his assistant, Sergeant Wilson.

In The Woods Murder, by Roy Lewis, a solicitor named Charles Lendon has been found in a forest hut, an iron skewer thrust through his heart. There are many people who might possibly have wanted Lendon dead. For one thing, he was an inveterate womanizer, and made no distinction between married and unmarried women. Also there’s a farmer who blames him for the death of his daughter (this is the previous murder mentioned above). Lendon closed off a lane through his woods which children used to use as a shortcut. With that way blocked, they have to take a longer route now – and the farmer’s daughter was killed along that route.

But there’s more to Lendon than is commonly known. As Inspector Crow uncovers layers of old secrets and lies, it becomes a possibility that his death might not have sprung from his sins – but from his (few) virtues.

The Woods Murder is part of a series of books published back in the late 1960s, and republished now. I thought I might find it more congenial than a lot of politically correct contemporary books. And it was all right, but I must admit I didn’t love it. I guess I’ve gotten used to a more character-driven style of storytelling. Nothing against this book, but it didn’t ring my bell.

I do have to note one remarkable line of prose – not typical of the book as a whole: “…for her mind was patterned with doubt and incomprehension, a cicatriced amorphous mass criss-crossed with questions and uncertainty.”

I’m not sure how any publisher would let a self-indulgent line like that stand in a popular novel. But I suppose the rules were different back then.