The Beast Must Die by Nicholas Blake

Frank Cairnes is a broken man. A mystery novelist living in the Cotswolds, his life has been hollow since his son Martie was killed in a hit-and-run accident. With the police investigation winding down, with no suspect in sight, Frank decides to take matters into his own hands. He will find the man who killed his son. And he will kill him…

Frank’s investigations soon lead him to George Rattray, a man of whose guilt he is certain, and Frank, under his authorly pseudonym of Felix Lane, inveigles himself into his family circle. But will Frank have the strength of purpose to carry through his plan? Or will someone else’s scheme for murder overlap his?

Well, when I revealed my dark secret about the number of books from the CWA Top 100 Mystery Novels that I’d read, I mentioned that there were two books on the list that I did want to read – namely Malice Aforethought by Francis Iles and this one. Well, now (obviously) there’s only one book left.

I can see why this is called a classic – and it’s blooming hard to review in a substantial but spoiler-free way. The story opens with Frank’s diary of his attempts to find his son’s killer and by the time the perspective shifts, we’re well past the spoiler boundary for me. So what can I say?

It starts and ends very strongly indeed. The overall plot of the actual killer is clever and as the whole, it’s a very satisfying read. When Blake is on form, he could construct a very clever plot and this is definitely Blake on form – for another example, see The Case Of The Abominable Snowman. To be honest, it drags a little in the third act, the point where the book most resembles a traditional Golden Age tale, but the quality of the writing carries it through – as you would expect from a Poet Laureate.

Definitely worth the mantle of “classic” – I didn’t spot the killer – and definitely needs to be read by any fan of detective fiction. There’s an ebook version and a recent reprint, so it’s not hard to get a copy. So what are you waiting for? Highly Recommended.

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6 comments

  1. haha yes it is impossible to talk about this book in any given detail, given its nature, but glad that nonetheless you enjoyed it. It is one of Blake’s best books. Do you think you will be getting around to Malice Aforethought soon?

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      • The two White books you recommended – found a v cheap combined edition, admittedly with the film titles – and The House Without The Door by Daly. And for Rhode, I have managed to procure a not too expensive copy of The Fourth Bomb from the reading list…

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      • Not read THWTD by Daly so I will be interested to see what you make of it, as I’ve not had a lot of success with this author. Been some okay stories but nothing to write home about. Really hope you enjoy those two by White.

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