(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

In the Arthur Crook novels, Anthony Gilbert (Lucy Beatric Malleson) develops a protagonist very different from the fashionable detective favored by her contemporaries. Tough and resourceful but lacking the elegance of Dorothy L. Sayers’s or Ngaio Marsh’s heroes, Crook has the earthy vitality of a Charles Dickens character, and he remains essentially himself, despite whatever complicated action swirls around him. The Crook novels move rapidly and present a vivid and recognizable picture of everyday London life. The characters, especially the minor ones, are sketched with quick, sure strokes, and they arouse the reader’s sympathetic interest. Gilbert’s plots are ingenious and complex; she avoids involvement with legal intricacies but presents clues fairly. Although the volume of her production makes uneven workmanship inevitable, the best of the Arthur Crook novels are entertaining, carefully crafted, and satisfying in their mixture of action and humor.