Thursday, January 26, 2017

Favourite Discoveries of 2016 (3)

Here is Rich Westwood's favourite crime discovery of 2016:

Rich's Favourite Discovery of 2016

My discovery of the year is Ethel Lina White, the writer best known for THE WHEEL SPINS, which was adapted by Alfred Hitchcock as The Lady Vanishes in 1938.

White was born in Abergavenny in 1876. After three mainstream novels she turned to crime in 1931 and was writing until her death in 1944. I've read a few of her fourteen crime novels in 2016 and have been really impressed with her versatility.

FEAR STALKS THE VILLAGE (1932) is a classic poison-pen story set in a close-knit community. The titular village is one of those idealised English villages of the Golden Age mystery, but stretched almost to hyper-cosiness. It is a deliberate caricature of the type.

SOME MUST WATCH (1933) is a claustrophobic siege set in a lonely Victorian house on the Welsh borders, damp and wind-swept, surrounded by trees, and difficult to reach by car. There's a murderer at large in the countryside - or is he in the house? This has also been filmed, as The Spiral Staircase.

WAX (1935) is set in a small town rife with vulnerability, dysfunction and cruelty. A young journalist becomes obsessed with the town's wax museum, with Gothic consequences.

THE WHEEL SPINS (1936) finds a young socialite travelling across Europe by train. Sunstroke, lack of food, and her lack of understanding of the language all combine to give the journey an unpleasantly feverish atmosphere. And then the only friendly face, an English governess, disappears without trace.

STEP IN THE DARK (1938) is another type of thriller again, more akin to a Mary Stewart romantic suspense with a heroine choosing between two men and (of course) picking the wrong one.

If you're tempted, a collection of White's work is available on Amazon very cheaply. For print editions, Orion's imprint The Murder Room has republished her in paperback. Finally, two of her short stories, CHEESE and WAXWORKS, have appeared in British Library anthologies (CAPITAL CRIMES and SILENT NIGHTS).

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