After recently reviewing my first John Ferguson mystery (see my thoughts on The Grouse Moor Mystery earlier on this blog) I was looking forward to delving deeper into the output of this largely forgotten Golden Age author. Unfortunately for the lover of the puzzle plot, any expectation of finding this book of similar interest proved to be largely unfulfilled. What we have here is a book far closer to the action and adventure genre of the thriller, rather in the vein of Buchan’s Richard Hannay stories, than to crime or detective fiction.
The outline will be familiar to many. Erstwhile young man (our hero Alec Maitland, abroad for several years and now down on his luck in London) is approached by old friend who now happens to be a foreign office official to aid the government in regaining papers of national importance. Having reluctantly agreed to be of service to his country, as any good subject should be, he is thrown into adventure and danger. Naturally there are exchanged identities, the murder in brutal circumstances of a man who may have been mistaken for our hero – with the hero as chief suspect of course – and all manner of other tropes familiar in this type of story. There are however one or two redeeming features. Ferguson is excellent at describing the Scottish topography that is the background to the second half of the book, as he was in The Grouse Moor Mystery. The pace is well sustained and the description of the hero’s flight across the highlands is very well handled. However, the antagonists are a stereotypical bunch, including a black African servant whose antics and demeanour may be unpalatable to modern sensitivities.
While unquestionably a good quality thriller – and this reviewer does not have sufficient experience with the genre to judge beyond that – this is not a detective mystery of the classic type and is therefore probably of lesser interest to readers like myself whose interests lie in that direction. Whilst not successful in deterring the reviewer from seeking out other books by the same author, it will probably result in closer examination of which genre those books inhabit before further reviews follow. I am however looking forward to reviewing The Death Of Mr. Dodsley (1937), which is published this month in the British Library Crime Classics series and features Ferguson’s series sleuth Frances McNab.
From a golden age puzzle plot perspective this is of secondary interest – and certainly a little less successful than The Grouse Moor Mystery. Like that book the UK 1st edition of Night In Glengyle featured a superb dustwrapper by Youngman Carter, husband of Margery Allingham.
A paperback edition was published by Coachwhip in 2018 and is still available. No ebook or audiobook versions have been traced by the reviewer.
First Edition Details
Originally published by Collins Crime Club 1933
Orange Cloth Boards pp 251, 8vo
Title and Author stamped in black on spine. ‘The Crime Club’ stamped in black at bottom.
Title and Author stamped in black on front.
Dustwrapper priced at 7/6 net on spine.
Originally published by Dodd, Mead & co, New York 1933
Dustwrapper priced at $2 on front flap.
R E Faust
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