Lonely Magdalen (1940)
There is something refreshingly modern about this 1940 detective novel. Instead of the “innocence” Symons, Keating et al. accused the classic detective writers of having, the author shows knowledge of the more sordid sides of life. The victim is a prostitute, strangled on Hampstead Heath, and the suspects are to be found among her clients. Detection of the police procedural variety (far more credible than that of Crofts, and livelier) reveals the woman’s antecedents, which are revealed in a second section strongly reminiscent of Galsworthy, Dickens or Berkeley (Murder in the Basement). This leads the detection in another direction—and the solution is revealed. Although there is some clever misdirection, the solution is profoundly anti-climactic and inartistic, for it turns two-thirds of the novel into padding. The novel can only be termed satisfying if the solution revealed in the final paragraph is the correct one, which makes Poole complicit in police corruption—another example of Wade’s supremely cynical ideas about justice.
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