Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Review of Corridors of Death by Ruth Dudley Edwards (Poison Pen Press, 2007; first pub 1982)

Sir Nicholas Clark has climbed the greasy ladder in Whitehall to become head of the Department of Conservation.  On the way he has become bitter and twisted, gaining a reputation for treating his colleagues with contempt without ever being seen to stab them in the back.  After a meeting that was disastrous for his Minister he is found clubbed to death in a lavatory.  Superintendent Jim Milton is assigned to the politically charged case, with the suspects including ministers of state, senior civil servants, and major industrialists.  He finds an ally in Clark’s private secretary, Robert Amiss, who is prepared to reveal the convoluted workings of the British civil service and how Clark spent the weekend before his death deliberately antagonizing family members and those attending the meeting.  Not short of suspects with good reason to hate Clark, Milton is under pressure to achieve a quick result, though Whitehall tends to work at its own pace and in its own ways.

Corridors of Death is the first of the Robert Amiss mysteries and blends British establishment satire with crime fiction.  For me the story was ‘Yes, Minister’ meets golden age British crime novel, a la Agatha Christie.  Edwards keeps the storytelling light, engaging and witty, without undermining the mystery and the seriousness of the case.  The labyrinth bureaucracy and petty personal politics of Whitehall is well depicted.  And the characterisation of politicians, civil servants and family relations are nicely observed.  The style is all show and no tell, and well paced, with the plot having a number of twists and feints.  My only reservation was the denouement, which although plausible didn’t quite seem to ring true.  Nevertheless, Corridors of Death is an engaging and entertaining read that I felt was ready made for adaptation to the small screen. I certainly intend to read other books in the series.


pattinase (abbott) said...

I'll use this on Friday, Rob. SOunds good.

TracyK said...

Rob, I have had this book forever (and a few others by the same author) but haven't read it. This review has convinced me to do that soon(ish). Thanks for this great review.