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Monday, 5 October 2015

Detective novels

October 5th., 1929. Cadogan Square, London.

I read the last 200 pages of Gaboriau's "L'Affaire Lerouge" this afternoon. I must have read it first as a boy, in English. My previous last perusal of the original French was in 1916. Now I have finished it again. I read it in order to compare some new detective novels with an admitted masterpiece in that kind. There never was such a rage for detective novels as today. Our chief truly literary monthly, written mainly by highbrows for highbrows,. gives many pages each month to the appraisal of the latest detective fiction. "L'Affaire Lerouge" is out of sight better than the British favourites of the hour. I should like to think otherwise but I can't. It is better because it has a firmer grasp of plot and much more creative imagination.

Image result for gaboriau "L'Affaire Lerouge"The first 200 pages - the opening, the discovery of the crime, and the preliminary detective work - are simply brilliant. No flaw in them. But the novel as a whole is by no means perfect. Gaboriau even in his best novels has two faults. His use of coincidence amounts to impudence. There are two terrific coincidences in "L'Affaire Lerouge". One is that Tabaret the amateur detective happens to live in the same house as a group of people intimately and vitally connected with the crime! The other coincidence is that Daburon, the examining magistrate, happens also to be connected with the same above-mentioned small group of people.

These enormities would ruin any fairly good detective novel. But Gaboriau by his immense force of creative imagination, carries them triumphantly off. He compels you to say to yourself - "Well, it was extremely odd that things fell out so, and extremely convenient for the author, but they did fall out so. And that's all there is to it!"

I have been in Hampshire for the weekend enjoying the last fling of this Indian Summer. Stayed at Fordingbridge which is a pleasant small town on the edge of the New Forest with an impressive bridge over the Avon. An enjoyable walk in the Forest last Thursday for about 3 hours - easy walking, varied scenery and lots to look at. Then on Friday down to the coast near Keyhaven for a stroll by the marshes which were alive with all manner of birds. I was particularly taken with the Lapwings, showing themselves to great effect in the sunshine. Whilst away I re-read Haggard's "Heart of the World", a typical tale of wonder and derring-do set in Central America. Haggard only really has one plot which he sets in various exotic locations, but good for a light read away from business. 

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