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Wednesday 22 March 2023

THE LITTLE WALLS - Book review

In the 1950s and early 1960s, Winston Graham had a number of suspense novels published. The Little Walls was published in 1955; my copy is the fourth impression, 1972. (Those were the days when you could see how often a book was reprinted!)

It’s written in the first person and I found it comparable to Hammond Innes in style and tone, though perhaps less technical. Philip Turner’s older brother Grevil’s body was discovered in a canal in Amsterdam. Suspected suicide. Philip can’t believe it and sets out to determine that it was murder. Apparently, on Grevil’s body was a letter from a woman called Leonie, breaking off their relationship. Philip still did not believe his brother would take his own life. Grevil had been on an archaeological dig with a mysterious adventurer called Buckingham.

Philip takes leave from his business in America and enlists the help of Martin Coxon, someone who knew Buckingham some years ago.

Grevil’s death occurred in the insalubrious district of De Walletjes – which translates as ‘the Little Walls’. ‘At one place, in a cellar decorated with modern murals which would have left Freud practically nothing  to interpret…’ (p50).

Dutch Inspector Tholen fears Grevil was involved in some shady dealings and ran foul of local villains. Philip’s investigations take him to Naples and Capri, where he links up with a group of rich individuals with intriguing back-stories and a liking of cocktail parties, which normally were anathema to Philip: ‘The buzz of voices, introductions forgotten as soon as made, remarks which meant nothing drowned by others which meant less…’ (p129).  

Reading the story, one could almost believe it had happened – always the sign of a good narrator. The descriptions of the scenery and characters are well done, and there is a burgeoning romance, a betrayal, a fight to the death, and a twist towards the end.

The cover is one of several that feature a character’s facial close-up, all of which are eye-catching. (Though in this case the female protagonist is fair-haired in the book!). These other covers of books I still have to read are: Greek Fire (1957), The Tumbled House (1959), and After the Act (1965).

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