Death Of Anton by Alan Melville

Death Of AntonAh, the circus. Haven’t been to one in decades but things have changed. At the one being advertised in my local newsagent – the Canadian State Circus, I think – the main attraction seems to be a Transformer. No idea how they pull that off, but I expect a lot of kids might be disappointed. Although no more disappointed by the recent movies of course…

I digress. This is 1936, so along with acrobats and clowns (and no Transformers), there are animal acts in the circus. And the one that pulls in the punters is the Tiger Taming! Seven tigers in a single cage with their trainer, Anton. Every night he risks life and limb but the tigers never lay a paw on him. Oh, hang on, look at the title of the book… One night, after the circus has closed, the tigers get an unexpected snack. Yumsk!

Another re-release from the British Library, Alan Melville was a vastly talented individual – take a look at his Wikipedia page – and wrote a few mystery novels. Two have been re-released so far, this one and Quick Curtain (coming soonish to the blog) and it’s something of a gem.

Melville is a witty and entertaining writer. Take the chapter where Detective Inspector Minto puts his ideas in order and poses questions to himself – it’s laugh-out-loud funny. The book sparkles along with some original ideas. Minto’s brother is a priest and knows the killer’s identity, but is unable to say anything due to hearing it in confession – although I’m pretty sure that they have a duty to report a capital crime.

The central characters in the circus are an interesting bunch – Carey, the owner, Dodo, the clown, Miller, Anton’s would-be replacement and Lorimer and Loretta the acrobats are all presented as fully realised characters. The fate of one of them, quite late in the book, gets a very heartless reaction from Minto and seemed a bit unnecessary, but the fact that I cared about it shows how the character had been built up.

Plot-wise? Well, there are no real surprises to be had here, and I think most readers will spot the murderer – Minto isn’t the smartest detective that I’ve ever read about – but that’s not the charm of this book. It’s loads of fun and well worth your time. Highly Recommended. But do turn a blind eye to the notion of tiger’s memories…

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11 comments

  1. I would be surprised if it is the Canadian State Circus, as we don’t have States in Canada. Merry Christmas and congratulations on your five years of blogging.

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  2. Glad you enjoyed this book. I really liked it also. The bangers party where Minto’s brother is stuck next to the Walrus is hilarious. I think Melville was very good at deploying different types of humour without his narratives falling apart.

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  3. Sorry folks, but this is the only one of the many British Library mysteries that I have read that I really did not like. Did not like to the point of did not finish. But then I love the ER Punshon Bobby Owen series too, and many of you did not.

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  4. Hurrah! I bought this about three days ago (which, if history is my guide, means I’ll read it in October) and it’s good to know it continues to impress. 2016 will be the Year of Catching Up with the British Library Reprints, methinks…

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  5. […] In Search of the Classic Mystery: Ah, the circus. Haven’t been to one in decades but things have changed. At the one being advertised in my local newsagent – the Canadian State Circus, I think – the main attraction seems to be a Transformer. No idea how they pull that off, but I expect a lot of kids might be disappointed. Although no more disappointed by the recent movies of course… […]

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