The Detective Fiction of A.E.W. Mason


“Amid the sunshine, the business of the vintage and Mr. Ricardo’s personal interest in his food and his wine the author presents murder, mutilation, passion, hatred, cruelty, dark iniquity, a rescue in the nick of time, a strange arrest followed by a suicide which is also an execution and a variety of episodes which are full of mystery as they occur but fit in to an intelligible and convincing whole which makes as thrilling and uncomfortable a story as one could well wish to read.”

Times Literary Supplement, 10th January 1929

“What an artist in story-telling is Mr. Mason, who can make the least satisfying of his Hanaud plots into the most readable of his Hanaud stories.”

– Torquemada, Observer, 21st July 1935

I have to confess that, until August this year, I had little liking for Mason.  Having read The Prisoner in the Opal, I dismissed him as a rather silly and melodramatic writer incapable of constructing a good detective story.  That changed when I read – in rapid succession – The House of the Arrow and At the Villa Rose, both of which are as fine detective stories as anyone could wish for.  Their atmosphere is sinister, with suggestions of something truly diabolical in the background; the characters are more than mere puppets, but, as the title of one of his novels suggests, move and breathe as they choose, not merely to suit the author’s plot; the detection is subtle, often turning on such small points as a clock seen in a mirror or the smoke pouring from a chimney; the solutions are genuinely surprising but also psychologically credible; and the detective team of Inspector Hanaud and the dilettante M. Ricardo is one of the best double acts in the genre.

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These pages copyright Nicholas Lester Fuller, 2000--2010. Created 5th December 2004.