Close Quarters

Close Quarters by Michael Gilbert was written, or at least started in the Golden Age, but then the war came and the book wasn’t published until 1947.  The title is a play on words as the setting of the crimes is a cathedral close in Melchester.  Not sure if this is the same as Hardy’s Melchester.  Certainly the author’s erudite enough to be making that reference, so let’s assume he did.  The book starts off with the Dean of the Cathedral calling in his nephew, a Scotland Yard man named Pollock, to unofficially investigate some poison pen letters all aimed at an elderly verger called Appledown.  Soon the pen is traded in for a blunt instrument and Chief Inspector Hazlerigg joins Pollock in an official capacity to investigate.

Gilbert is quite an enjoyable writer.  I turned to this book by a slightly roundabout route.  I was reading JJ’s post defending Elephants Can Remember, which I happen to agree with.  Not great work by any stretch, but not so bad either.  Much better than the abysmal television version in which they tried to improve it only to make a complete hash of it.  Anyway, reading this post revealed to me that Noah Stewart had died and I had somehow missed this news in December.  I didn’t know Noah, but I had ‘met’ him virtually last fall when I read his Birlstone Gambit post and proceeded to read the books he spoiled in that post, before reading the post.   I don’t know how it took me five years to find his blog, but it’s a great pity that it did.   So, I started looking at some older posts and found one on Michael Gilbert which sounded good.   In looking up Michael Gilbert on Amazon, I realized I already had the first one.   I must’ve read someone else on it and maybe I’ll find them later.  So, I probably have two people to thank for nudging me to Michael Gilbert.  He wrote a variety of books, but Noah liked even the types he didn’t usually like, so I’m hoping to have a similar experience.  The first one is a good start.  There’s a bit at the end which is coyly never revealed which makes me think he just couldn’t think of a good answer, but it’s a minor quibble.


All in all an enjoyable book and I plan to read more Michael Gilbert.  More police procedural than many, it’s still a closed circle of suspects.  (Close-d circle!  Ha!)  For the Calendar of Crime challenge, this book takes place in September.  Apparently a very hot September.  Gilbert’s a good, solid writer and I look forward to reading more of him and my sympathy to all Noah’s friends and family.   He seemed like a fun and interesting guy.

6 thoughts on “Close Quarters”

  1. Gotta be honest, I couldn’t finish this. I loved Gilbert’s The Danger Within (a.k.a. Death in Captivity) and have found the other three or four I’ve tried weirdly stilted and false. My loss, it seems, because he’s hugely enjoyed by people from all sides of the classic crime fiction divides.

      1. Yeah, I seem to be the only one who struggled with this and Smallbone Deceased — my loss, as I say. Maybe I’ll try Gilbert again in a few years, since the new BLCC editions would all but guarantee that he’ll be at least partially in print for a while yet.

  2. I always appreciate a Michael Gilbert review. He seems to have mixed genres, so it’s nice to understand which were the true mysteries. Although the two that I’ve read (The Danger Within and Death Has Deep Roots) featured mysteries, I more enjoyed them for the surrounding story elements.

    1. Some say the mixed genres is why he wasn’t as popular as he should have been. They could be right. A lot of people want to read essentially the same book over and over.

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