I recently became aware of Bello books through the medium of twitter. They are an imprint of Pan Macmillan providing print-on-demand and ebooks and reviving many classic and out of print works. When I recently saw a tweet about Francis Durbridge books – I thought “ooh who’s that then?” Finding out Francis Durbridge was an old fashioned mystery writer –I could resist downloading one to try. A day or two later I realised this was just the kind of book I was in the mood to read during the weekend. A quick and involving read awaited me, as well as the discovery of a new to me author. Considering the size of my TBR I am rather alarmed at how many books there are by Francis Durbridge – including a series about a detective and a journalist side kick, which I rather like the sound of. The Other Man is a stand-alone novel- and one I found hard to put down.
“The houseboats on the river at Medlow have an idle and carefree elegance that is all their own. Nothing disturbs their serene anchorage. At weekends tired City businessmen find that they are not so tired as they thought they were – tiredness manifests itself on Monday morning; the young and not so young frolic discreetly; illicit friendships flourish. There is always love and laughter in plenty on the river at Medlow and the few permanent houseboat residents regard the junketing with aloof tolerance. It is almost impossible to imagine anything sinister happening in this little flesh-pot of the Thames which one of the more enterprising of the houseboat- agents describes as a ‘natural paradise’.”
The body of Paul Rocello is found on a river houseboat owned by a man named James Cooper who seems to have vanished. Just before the body is discovered, a local public school housemaster, David Henderson is seen on the houseboat by the visiting niece of the local doctor. Inspector Ford, whose young son has a scholarship to Rockingham College where Henderson teaches, is put in charge of the case. What was Henderson doing on that houseboat? Where and who exactly is Cooper, and why did Italian Paul Rocello end up murdered on his houseboat? Henderson proves to be less than helpful to Inspector Ford as the investigation gets underway. On another houseboat lives Billie Reynolds, something of a good time girl, who it would appear is another potential witness to events on the night Rocello was murdered. Billie is quite capable however, of turning all situations to her own advantage.
I thoroughly enjoyed this quick light mystery that is very much in that traditional mould that I enjoy. It isn’t gory or gratuitously violent – like so many modern thrillers, the characters speak properly and with respect, I do rather like that old fashioned politeness. The canvas is small and while the plot is clever with plenty to keep the reader guessing and surprised, there aren’t so many characters that it ever gets confusing. I also really liked the character of Inspector Ford, a nice ordinary honest policeman and would enjoy reading more about him, but I think he must be a stand- alone character. I will certainly be reading more by Francis Durbridge – and I am also very glad to have discovered Bello books.