Cover Image: The Beast Must Die

The Beast Must Die

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Member Reviews

Loved the theme and imagery. The beginning of the book was a little slow but once you get past it you become enveloped in the mystery.
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This book moves way too slow. It failed to hold my attention and really wasn't to my liking.
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Golden Age Detective Fiction: Nicholas Blake’s “The Beast Must Die” & Dorothy Sayers’ “Have His Carcase”

It’s summer!  Have you got your lawn chairs out?  Is your umbrella positioned to shade your table?  Do you plan to spend the next few months anointed with bug spray so you can sit outside whenever the mood takes you?

All right, I’m reading nothing but genre fiction for three months!  Well, three days, okay?  And today I’m writing a  straightahead post on two superb Golden Age Detective novels, Nicholas Blake’s "The Beast Must Die" and Dorothy Sayers’ "Have His Carcase.". 

  he poet Cecil Day-Lewis, whose excellent translations of Virgil still reside on our bookshelf, wrote 19 mysteries under the nom de plume Nicholas Blake.   I am a fan of Blake’s witty amateur sleuth and poet, Nigel Strangeways, who can hold his own with Dorothy Sayers’ brilliant Lord Peter Wimsey and Ngaio Marsh’s Roderick Alleyn.  Lo and behold! I recently discovered an e-book edition of  Blake’s  1938 novel, "The Beast Must Die" (Ipso Books).  It was new to me, but according to The Telegraph it is one of his most famous books.

"The Beast Must Die 
is structurally tricky, like walking through a house of mirrors.   The  first part takes the form of a journal written by Frank Cairnes, who writes popular mysteries under the pseudonym Felix Lane.

The novel begins:

I am going to kill a man. I don’t know his name, I don’t know where he lives, I have no idea what he looks like. But I am going to find him and kill him."

Why is Frank murderous?  No, it’s not research for a new novel.  The narrator Frank’s son was killed in a hit-and-run accident, and when the police fail to find the killer, Frank hones the skills of his fictional sleuths to figure  out the trajectory of the runaway car.  He discovers that someone saw  a movie starlet, Lena Lawson, in the front seat with the driver.

And then the plot gets much, much more convoluted.  He tracks down Lena and woos her to get information, but under his nom de plume, Felix, so she will not realize who he is.  And when he learns the driver is Lena’s brother-in-law and former lover, George Rattery, a garage owner, he wangles an invitation for a weekend visit to the Ratterys.  George is a bully, whose wife and son are nervous wrecks. He is thoroughly unpleasant, and that makes Felix’s murder plot more plausible.

Nigel, the poet-sleuth, finally appears almost halfway through the novel, and it is as if there is a modernist confrontation between the consciousness of C. Day-Lewis and his other self, the mystery writer, Nicholas Blake.  Exhausted and ill from solving a different crime, Nigel  tells his wife, Georgia, an explorer, that he is “having a tête-à-tête with my unconscious” and composing ” a general knowledge paper.”  When Georgia reads the questions, she tells him it must be a terrible thing to have a classical education.  He agrees.  Among the nonsensical but learned questions are:

   1.   How many fine words does it take to butter no parsnips?
    2.  Who or what was “the dry wet-nurse of lions”?
    3.  In what sense were the Nine Worthies?
    4.  What do you know about Mr Bangelstein? What do you not know about Bion and Borysthenite?

Lovely to read, even if you haven’t the faintest idea what he’s on about.  And the questions to Frank/Felix are even more incisive.

So who done it?

If you liked Agatha Christie’s "The  Murder of Roger Ackroyd", you will undoubtedly enjoy "The Beast Must Die. "
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I received an ARC from NetGalley for an honest review. 

I was intrigued to read this book, as it was a mystery/thriller written in 1938. I wanted to see how things were solved "in the good old days", without the modern conveniences of technology. 

Another aspect I found interesting was the narrator was a mystery author themselves. I thought it could cause an interesting twist on the way their brain worked to solve the mystery. 

An interesting read for sure.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Ipso Books for a free copy of this book! Originally published in 1938, Ipso has re-released it this month and I highly recommend it to anyone who reads mysteries (or even those of you who don't). I was drawn immediately into the story of Frank Cairns, aka Felix Lane, who plots to kill the man who killed his young son in a hit and run. I wasn't sure if I would enjoy it because the man is plotting to kill someone, which is way outside normal moral grounds. But I sympathized so much with Frank and his plight. I wanted the dirty rascal he was hunting to be punished for what he had done (and the way he lived his life). And the way the story is written, it feels lighthearted and cheeky rather than sinister.

Well, the dirty rascal is punished, but did Felix/Frank actually do it? Enter Nigel Strangeways: kind, dedicated, whip-smart private detective hilariously always seeming to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I was cracking up at his interactions with his wife.

Really, I just couldn't put this down. I finished it in a day and I can't wait to read more from this series.
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Felix is a mystery writer whose son is killed by a hit-and-run driver, so he decides to find the killer and murder him, all of his plans documented in the diary that makes up the first part of the book. When the killer turns up dead, Felix is the main suspect but claims to be innocent. Nigel Strangeways, a private detective (and the main character in the series), is asked by a friend to investigate. This got off to a slow start but it did pick up and get more interesting. I don't think I would want to read more in this series because I didn't really like Nigel all that much, but the story itself was good. The ending was a little anticlimactic. Most of the second half of the book was sort of slow paced, a few days surrounding the death and the investigation, and then it was suddenly solved and done. It seemed a little abrupt. I did like the book overall and would give it 3.5 stars.
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This is a great book . It is told from an interesting point of view and keeps one guessing until the end. I would definitely recommend it!
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I am going to kill a man. I don't know his name, I don’t know where he lives, I have no idea what he looks like. But I am going to find him and kill him... 

What do you do when you plan a murder then, inexplicably, your victim turns up dead, and not by your hand?

Respected crime writer Frank Cairns is plotting the perfect murder of George Rattery, the hit-and-run driver who killed his young son, but when his intended victim is found dead and Cairns becomes the prime suspect, the author insists he has been framed.

Pleading his innocence, an old friend calls in private detective Nigel Strangeways to help prove that Cairns has been framed. Strangeways must unravel a fiendishly plotted mystery if he is to discover what really happened to George Rattery.

The Nigel Strangeways Mysteries, are one of the classic mystery series dating back to the 1930's through to the authors death.

Although I found it a bit slow going at first, it did pick up its pace, with plenty of twists and turns that will keep the reader guessing until the end.

With a good set of characters, well plotted and written, these classic mysteries are well worth reading, as most of these authors, are the writers that set the standards of todays modern mysteries.

I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book. Published by Ipso Books/crime Classics and downloaded via NetGalley.
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