Monday, June 30, 2014

Review of Gently Floating by Alan Hunter (Cassell & Co, 1963)

Boatyard owner Harry French is not well liked; he’s cranky, hard-headed and vindictive.  After confronting neighbours about their interaction with his son, a young man about to inherit some money from his dead mother’s estate, French is hit on the back of the head, falling into a Norfolk broad.  The next day his body is found and the local police draft in the help of Superintendent George Gently to help conduct a murder enquiry.  Whilst the pool of suspects is small, each seemingly has a reason to kill French and none are inclined to help the police, leaving Gently to slowly make headway towards identifying the killer.

I read Gently Floating as part of Rich Westwood’s challenge on Past Offences to read a book published in 1963.  The tale is a quite traditional police procedural, with the thoughtful, even-tempered Superintendent George Gently interviewing and prodding a handful of suspects, whilst the local inspector jumps to conclusions and wants to resort to more forceful methods.  There’s little in the way of melodrama, high tension, violence or action.  Rather the story focuses on the investigation and the puzzle concerning the killer’s identity.  Hunter makes sure that all the suspect have a plausible reason to want Harry French dead and keeps them all in the frame until the last few pages, though the puzzle is not too challenging.  There’s a nice evocation of the Norfolk broads and the close knit community around the boatyard, though the characterisation is fairly light, with the focus more on plot and sense of place.  Overall, an enjoyable enough tale, but lacks bite and intrigue.

No comments: