This is the final novel by the well-known British writer CP Snow. In the early days of the Booker Prize, when there was a clear tension between the older world of British writers in the 20th century (like Graham Greene and John Fowles, Paul Scott, and CP Snow) and newer writers (like JG Farrell, Beryl Bainbridge and the like) CP Snow ended up getting a few nods. The bulk of his writing was done previous to the 1970s and especially in the eleven novels of his series called Brothers and Strangers sharing some similarities to Anthony Powell’s Dance to the Music of Time.
A scientist by training, CP Snow is also clearly interested in human motivation, human passions, and in this novel, crime.
We find a quaint (well-off) London neighborhood. In one house we meet Humphrey, a former British intelligence officer getting along with his neighbors, considering an affair, and mostly just living his life. His wife is awaiting the results of a cancer screening, and when she receives the news that she seems to be in the clear, this is a relief. But then she’s murdered.
The next long section of the novel brings in the police and the investigative team, and the same kind of dry but analytical breakdown of their process, their characters, bits of their lives, and other elements that the early section of the novel analyzed the neighborhood occurs here as well. From there on, from the middle out, the novel splits its time between the lead investigator and the surviving characters of the neighborhood as the crime is investigated and solved.
Maybe it’s a good thing this is the first CP Snow novel I read. He comes highly recommended and I am interested in his longer series. It’s good I read this one first, but it’s better that I was already interested in the others, because I don’t really think this novel is particularly good. It’s curious and you can feel a lot going on and it’s competently told, but that’s where the qualities kind of end for.