Novel of a Tragedy No Letters for the Dead. By Gale Wilhelm. (Peter Davies and Loyal Dickson. 6s.)
Jew's Harp. By Henry K. Marks. (Peter Davies. 7s. 6d.) The Grey Geese. By Coroline Rowe. (Long. 7s. 6d.)
Middle Class Murder. By Bruce Hamilton. (Methuen. 7s. ad.)
Adrian Was a Priest. By Marion Lochhead. (The Moray Press. 7s. 6d.) Reviewed by FRANCIS BURDETT No Letters for the Dead is an American book most attractively produced. It is written with the utmost economy of words, the story being presented in a series of slight but vivid pictures. It is tragic and depressing but has moments of real beauty and is told with an intensity that raises it far above the general run of books.
Paula, a cultured and sensitive woman with a gift for concise but revealing expression, loved Koni. Koni was married but in spite of all that he could do his wife refused to divorce him. After a final scene she commits suicide and he, rightly or wrongly, got imprisoned on a charge of complicity.
Paula travels from a distant state to be near the prison and sought in vain to earn her living. Each day she writes him a short note, full of her love and her hopes and plans for the future. But, in despair of getting the real work of which she also tells him, she sells her body where and as she can. The misery she suffers from this, her relations with a rich and understanding man who grew to love her and yet respected her own love, are amazingly revealed in the staccato but pregnant pages.
It must make a lasting impression on those willing to face a tragedy of this nature.
It would seem that Jew's Harp is a translation, though the title page is free from any such indication, of a French novel entitled L'Autre. It tells of a Jewish family in New York. Louis Bardack, an art-dealer, married a woman whose beauty and distinction won his admiration but from whom he withheld all sympathy and understanding. Irene, misunderstood and neglected, hated by her husband's family, threw herself at the head of a fashionable New York doctor. They lived together secretly for some time and considerable attention is given to the details of that intimacy.
There is a violence and brutality in the story that betrays both crudity and immaturity. I suspect that Mr. Marks has devoted much time to the study of famous French novels, that, to-day, seem to belong to a far distant *cind. (Their influence on him is clear but it is no less clear that he fills Considerably below their standard: In • The Grey zlGeese, Miss Rowe has written a quiet, unpretentious, story of Irish life. Celia had rnatried, beneath her. to her father's great anger, and when her husband, Black Johnnie, was shot for his share in politics, she fell on evil days. We follow her struggles to feed and clothe her children until they could make their own way. Though conventional and without any astounding qualities it will be read by those who love Ireland and like to re-live in imagination familiar scenes.
Detection and mystery have no place in Middle Class Murder. It is a study in the psychology of a successful dentist in a provincial town. Art accident has disabled and disfigured his wife. Her death rather than so mutilated. a survival would have been preferred by the dfintist. This preference was reinforced by the appearance in his neighbourhood of a good-looking woman to whom he is -immediately attracted. The death of his wife through " misadventure 7' seems to have been perfectly achieved, when a servant is discovered to have known too much. The misery that followed induces a second unsuccessful murder.
It is the history of an apparent success in crime that is frustrated by petty details and the reaction of a character that, in spite of all appearances. is weak at the core. It is well-done and exciting enough.
Adrian Was a Priest is a sincere but too convenfial picture of an Anglican clergyman and his two sisters. There is a lack of vitality that makes all their virtues void. It is without surprises, as it is without depth, so that the reader must have more detErmination than is, perhaps, worth while.