The Dreadful Hollow

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 30 Jan 2018

Member Reviews

I received this book for free from #netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Honestly, I did not know this was book 10 in a series. I was a bit lost so I had to DNF the book until I get caught up on the rest of the books. I am not one that will enjoy a book until I know the history of the series. 

It is hard for me to rate this but based on what did read, I will rate this but once I give the other books a read I will come back a redo my rating.
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This is the tenth book in the Nigel Strangeways series and in this one, private investigator Nigel is commissioned by the financier Sir Archibald Blick to investigate a number of anonymous letters received by the residents of Prior’s Umborne, a small village in Dorset. On his arrival, Nigel is quickly able to identify some possible suspects: Blick’s two sons, the eccentric, reclusive Stanford and the serious, hardworking Charles; Rosebay Chantmerle and her sister Celandine, who has been confined to a wheelchair for many years; and the sinister religious zealot Daniel Durdle, amongst others.

It doesn’t take Nigel long to solve the mystery of the poison pen letters – or to think that he has, anyway – but everything is thrown into doubt again when a man’s dead body is found in the quarry. Are the murderer and the letter writer the same person or are these two separate crimes?

I thought it was easy to spot the culprit (or culprits, as I’m not saying whether there were one, two or more of them) but the interest is in watching Nigel – and his old friend Superintendent Blount, who arrives in Prior’s Umborne after the murder is committed – try to gather the evidence to prove it. This is my least favourite of the Strangeways novels I’ve read so far, though, and that’s partly because I found the characters in this one so unlikeable. It’s quite normal for a crime novel to have unlikeable characters, of course, but I really did think the Blicks, the Chantmerles and the Durdles were all particularly unpleasant!

The final chapter is excellent with the tension building as the story moves towards a dramatic conclusion and this helps to make up for the novel’s weaker points. As this is only the third Nicholas Blake book I've read, I'll look forward to working through the others.
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The One with the Twisted Sisters
Nicholas Blake, The Dreadful Hollow (1953)

I confess that I was going to thrash the book: knowing that this is a reprint from 1953 and that the author is dead since 1972, I thought I wouldn’t do much personal harm. But then I learnt that Nicholas Blake is actually the pseudonym of poet Cecil Day-Lewis, and I was so perplex that I stopped writing this post altogether.

Nicholas Blake apparently wrote a whole series of rather cosy mysteries featuring amateur sleuth Nigel Strangeways from the 1930s to the 1960s. This one is the 10th, and maybe not the best (or at least I hope so). I chose it on Netgalley because I wanted to read a classic British mystery and it seemed to fit the bill. Unfortunately it has quite aged and not like a good wine.

In short, I could not suspend my disbelief long enough to enjoy this story. There are many characters, but the crux of the mystery revolves around two sisters, one crippled after the discovery of their dead father’s body and one who has dedicated her life to helping her sister. There are also two brothers (one of them falls in love with the second sister) and a religious maniac. It starts as a poison pen mystery, but soon graduates into assault and then murder, but the pace remains a bit too leisurely for my taste.

How does this rather dull story fit into the writing list of a Poet Laureate? I am still scratching my head, especially as Nigel Strangeways is supposed to be modelled on Auden. Maybe Day-Lewis needed that to pay the bills. It’s hard to resist the pun, and declare that the book was just what it promised : dreadful and hollow, but it wasn’t really that bad. The atmosphere rang true, but not the characters, and the plot was too convoluted for its own good, ending in total implausibility.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC (although I’m not sure they’ll thank me for this post)
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This is the first Nigel Strangeways book I've read, and I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would. I found the foreshadowing to be heavy-handed and the ending was glaringly obvious from early on. I don't necessarily mind knowing "whodunit" before the end of a book as long as the scenery and writing are engaging, but this fell short. The characters read like cardboard cutouts rather than real individuals with dimension and it is doubly true for all the female characters - who seem to be written only as objects of either pity or contempt.
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This book took me a while, it's the good old mystery kinda book and you have a Detective who is very observant and comes with a pinch of humor. If you're into that kind of mystery, this is right up your alley. It's been a trip down history (gave me the Agatha Christie vibes) thanks to Ipso books and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for my views on it.
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I really enjoyed this book that kept me hooked and guessing till the end.
The plot was interesting, with a lot of red herrings and turns. The style of writing, even if a big aged, was interesting and I really liked the cast of characters.
A very good old style mystery.
Strongly recommended.
Many thanks to Netgalley and Ipso Books..
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Nah, a hard pass for me when the flightly, yet oddly attractive lady swans in and doesn't f**king understand what police are.  No thank you.
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A grimmer Nigel Strangeways than we might be used to with less wit and frolic - the plot revolves around anonymous letters in a small village which, inevitably, lead to death. 

Blake's writing is literate, as ever, but a bit wordy here with lots of psychologising that doesn't transfer well to a modern, less innocent, readership. Not the best of a fun series.
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This is Nicholas Blake at his best, typical of the era, it delivers a mystery which keeps you interested  to the end. I must admit I did guess the murderer, but having said that I kept wondering whether I was correct throughout the book. Many red herrings and I found the writing very enjoyable, but then I enjoy the well structured, old fashion mysteries,  to the rough and tumble of todays writing.
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This was definitely good. I like a good mystery and an amazing writing style is always the cherry on top, however maybe the excessive prose is too much to digest, especially when am more into a faster reading pace. The plot is super interesting with this poisoned pen letters being sent out to all those who are being targeted. Things take another level of urgency when a man reaches the brim and takes his own life, and so Detective Strangeways steps in. Can we take a minute to acknowledge that name because hell yeah! Scenes play out and characters are added while the investigation is carried out and the mystery build up, no doubt. However, the ending, or the revelation to be specific, is brought in light too soon. Though, I've to give an applause to the extra bit of disclosure because that did take my by surprise, mostly because I wasn't expecting it. Anyway, since I want to avoid spoilers, it's getting a bit difficult to praise the parts I truly enjoyed. I would recommend this to all those who like classic mysteries with prose that reminds of the good ol' times when descriptions was the best way to narrate a story, and not dialogues.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Ipso Books for the digital ARC.

This is the second Nigel Strangeways novel I have read recently. My difficulty here is with the way that Blake (Day Lewis) treats his women characters.

Day Lewis was a serial philanderer, faithful to neither of his wives nor to his long-term affair, Rosamond Lehmann. Although the main female characters Celandine and Rosebay Chantmerle are strong people, stronger in some ways than some of the male protagonists, their flaws are more cruelly exposed than those of the weak Charles Blick, for instance.

I found some of the overblown prose difficult to stomach and, as for the plot,  the blackmailer in part one, and murderer in part two, were easy  to work out , despite some late obfuscation over the murderer.There is a lot of rather dubious psychologising

Religious maniacs are difficult to portray without descending into caricature as with the deliciously Dickensian Daniel Durdle whose influence over the villagers I found hard to credit. The ending is overly melodramatic.
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I really hate to say that I could not get into this book at all. The writing style did not appeal to me either. Not to my liking.
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I received a DIGITAL Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  From the publisher - 
Prior’s Umborne was a poisoned village, no doubt about that.
The small town of Prior’s Umborne is alive with gossip and accusation. A rash of poison pen letters has been sent to some of the inhabitants. Bleeding out buried secrets from the recipients’ pasts, the letters have already driven one man to take his own life.
With fear and suspicion spreading like wildfire, Private Investigator Nigel Strangeways is called in by Sir Archibald Blick, a wealthy businessman with his own set of enemies, to determine who is behind these malicious letters.
But as Nigel becomes a part of village life, he uncovers more than just the author of these deadly notes. When another body is discovered, Nigel must work quickly to untangle a web of family secrets and rivalry, love triangles and ultimatums before old grudges claim another life.

This is my first Nigel Strangeways book but it certainly won't be my last!!! 
1. Best detective name EVER.  
2. Great placename for an English village - I expect nothing short of a quirky name when dealing with England.
3. I had zero idea going into this review that the book was first published in 1953 (so I will have to get books one through nine of the series via Kindle) as it didn't really seem dated.
4.  Nicholas Blake is the pen name of Poet Laureate Cecil Day-Lewis, father of insanely talented actor Daniel.
5.. Sir Archibald Blick made me think of disgraced  businessman/"Baron of Crossharbour" Conrad Black (that's the Canadian in me, though!) 
6. Bullying is not a new thing and the poison pen letters prove that in a book written 55 years ago.
7. I will not share any more of the plot as I hate spoilers, especially in book reviews that spit out the whole plot or content of the book.
8. Did the book's title make me think "Harry Potter"? Yes!

The book is wonderfully written, just as one would expect from a celebrated man of letters and it his style and deftness in writing that makes it such a great mystery novel. You get caught up in the words and the plot and forget that you guessed the culprit early on and don't mind the revelation and their comeuppance.  I was sad when it ended but I know that there are at least 11 more I can read ... the sooner the better!
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