Monday, 16 December 2019

Left-Handed Death by Richard Hull

Left-Handed Death by Richard Hull
First published in the UK by Collins Crime Club in 1946. Republished by Agora Books on the 30th October 2019.

One of my Classics Club Challenge reads and a 2019 New Release Challenge read

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

His pen scratched the paper slowly, “I murd – I say, how do you spell ‘murdered’?”

Shergold Engineering Company has come into a bit of financial trouble. And it seems the Ministry-sent Barry Foster might just have something to do with it. The company directors, Arthur Shergold and Guy Reeves, decide Foster must be stopped, and when Reeves confesses to the murder, it’s surely an open-and-shut case. But as Detective Hardwick looks closer at the confession, he’s not so sure Reeves is their man.

Filled with comic wit and an ingenious plot, Left-Handed Death is a classic Richard Hull crime not to be missed.

I enjoyed this second Richard Hull mystery, Left-Handed Death, more than the first one I read, And Death Came Too, and I hope that Agora Books will republish more from his back catalogue. Both books are standalone stories. Left-Handed Death was first published in 1946 and is set immediately post-war so I loved seeing aspects of life as it actually was then, rather than through a historical fiction lens. Snarky comments about the hours people spent queuing, or disapproving glares aimed those whose diet is obviously not restricted by a ration book, give a strong sense of authenticity to the settings.

Left-Handed Death mostly takes place in the offices of a small, struggling metalworking company. Threatened by the loss of much of their business now that war contracts aren't as easy to come by, the owner and his partner know something needs to change. Hull's decision to start out with his murderer making a confession was an unusual touch which piqued my interest straight away. I liked his deft character portrayals in this novel too. They are not all likeable people by any means, but their mannerisms and realistic styles of speech make everyone pretty believable. Hull's humour works well to keep the tone light with several scene-stealing cameo roles. I particularly liked the overworked medical examiner and mouse-like Pennington!

Most of all though, I admired the prose in Left-Handed Death. This is beautifully honed, confident writing and even at moments where perhaps the plotline isn't totally convincing, it is still elegantly plausible! A joy to read.

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  1. Postwar books are very interesting because you can see the effects of war and living without it being too hard hitting or the main element of the story. It sounds like this one turned out to be a very good mystery!

    1. Exactly. This one is an interesting slice of history because of when it was written, and has a strong crime fiction narrative