Sir Wilfred Saxonby sits alone in his locked compartment as the train he is travelling on enters a tunnel. When the train emerges from the other side of the tunnel, Sir Wilfred is dead. All evidence indicates suicide but Inspector Arnold and his friend Desmond Merrion believe that murder is more likely. Can they outwit the seemingly perfect perpetrators?
A traditional ‘locked room’ mystery, Death in the Tunnel was the first of the British Library crime series I have read. The series features re-issues of various Golden Age crime novels, popular at the time but forgotten by the reading public until recently.
There were parts of the story where I was silently shouting at Arnold, telling him to stop being an idiot and see what was blatantly obvious to the reader and to Merrion. Of course he did get to the same conclusion, just several pages later. I had figured out the main motives and spotted the red herrings before the reveals but this didn’t alter my enjoyment of the story.
There is something comforting about Golden Age crime novels. The murders are clean, no gore or unnecessary violence. Usually the victim was disagreeable, no justification for murder of course, but lends to lots of suspects (from a small cast of characters) and perhaps a little understanding of their actions. There is the clever detective, amateur or otherwise, and their not so on the ball sidekick. The scenery is idyllic, the stories threaded with a sort of romanticism for a bygone age where glamour and understated opulence were the mainstays. The stories are clear cut, easy to read and the guilty parties revealed and dealt with accordingly, order therefore being restored. They gentle tax the ‘little grey cells’ to borrow from one of the era’s finest detectives. Death in the Tunnel was reminiscent of this, even the cover suggests a long lost glamour.
This was a pleasant, gently paced novel with an old world charm, reminiscent of Sunday evenings watch Poirot or Marple adaptations. Happily I have all of the other British Library crime series novels to work my way through.