A fun time-capsule of a mystery
I remember reading and enjoying several of Nicholas Blake’s Nigel Strangeways mysteries many many years ago, in “real paper” editions. But I had never read The Morning After Death, which is the last in the series, and features Strangeways as a visiting scholar at a fictional Ivy League school, Cabot University. So I was happy to receive a review copy of Agora Books’ new e-book edition. And it did not disappoint.
All of the titles in this series date back many decades, with the earliest written in the 1930s and the latest, this one, in the 1960s. As a result, although written as contemporaneous mysteries, they now feel more like unintentional historicals. But The Morning After Death weathers the years pretty well. Author Blake (pen-name for UK Poet Laureate Cecil Day-Lewis) provides enough background that readers can imagine the big automobile carrying five (!!!) adults in the opening scene, or the ritual of Ivy League football, with “Cabot men” following the band on a parade through town after a victory against Yale, towards the end. The plot is also fun, with several characters having motives ranging from accusations of plagiarism to just wanting money. I did have a pretty strong idea early on of whodunnit, but the aforementioned plethora of motives kept me from being sure of my conclusion until very near the end. Readers may have a little more discomfort with some of the gender roles – especially a James Bond-ish scene where Strangeways ignores his relationship with his UK girlfriend, Clare, for an almost fatalistic quick fling with a much younger female student (“Oh well, he sighed to himself”) – something that would set off lots of alarm bells today.
All-in-all, however, The Morning After Death was a fun quick read, and I’ll probably go back and read (or re-read) some of the earlier titles in the series. I tend not to give a lot of five-star reviews, and there are just enough flaws in the book to bump it down to four stars. But four stars from me is still a solid “read” recommendation, especially if you like Golden Age mysteries. And my thanks again to Agora Books and NetGalley for the review copy!