The Detective Fiction of Nicholas Blake

“As for the wrapping and unwrapping of the murderer, it is sufficient to say that there is no living writer of detective stories who will not have to look to his or her laurels if Mr. Blake can do it again.”

– Torquemada, Observer, 17th March 1935

“In point of fact the author is at the head of the newer detective story writers…  To begin with, he writes well: he shows wit without facetiousness and culture without pedantry.  His plots are ingenious without over-elaboration and his characters more human than is usual in the genre.  Nigel Strangeways, his amateur detective, is a puzzling mixture of simplicity and penetration, but all the more real for that.”

Times Literary Supplement, 6th February 1937

“Blake’s detective stories are of classical simplicity in plot and construction…  The end of the classical detective convention has been announced more than once in recent years, but while Mr. Blake continues to use it with such skill plainly the announcement is premature.”

– Julian Symons, Times Literary Supplement, 12th April 1957

Nicholas Blake (pseudonym of Cecil Day-Lewis, 1904—72) was one of the most satisfying writers of detective stories. As may be expected from the fact that he became Poet Laureate towards the end of his life, Blake's stories are always well-written, and populated by interesting characters. Although Blake is interested in psychology and character, he never "shirks clueing and thinking" (Barzun & Taylor), and his plots rank with the best—although, owing to the inevitability of the identities of his murderers, the reader may often guess whodunnit and whydunnit. That said, the books are uniquely satisfying as both detective stories and novels of character.

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These pages copyright Nicholas Lester Fuller, 2001--2002. Last modified 3rd December 2004.