Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Two murders, seven suspects

Michael Dirda in "Classic mysteries are having a moment" suggests a reason: "Why? In part because wise readers, weary of constant social media chatter and discord, know they can always find quiet and refreshment in improbably complicated stories about murder." One of the books he enjoys was made into a very good movie. I've not read the book. I have a DVD of the film and it seems pretty faithful to to the book's plot as he describes it. Dirda on the book:
Christianna Brand’s Green for Danger was made into a notable 1946 film with Inspector Cockrill played by Alastair Sim (best known as Scrooge in a beloved screen version of “A Christmas Carol”). The book itself is a tour de force of misdirection.

Picture a World War II hospital out in the country, under constant stress as it cares for people wounded in the never-ending German bombing raids. Three principal doctors are doing their best to keep up: a sexually charismatic Harley Street surgeon, an elderly general practitioner whose life was blighted by the hit-and-run death of his only child, and a young anesthesiologist, now under a cloud following an operation that went wrong through no fault of his own. Assisting them are various nurses and young women who have volunteered. In between surgeries and changing bandages, love affairs have blossomed and wilted, promises have been made and hearts left broken.

One night an old gent is brought in after a bomb has destroyed the local pub. The next day, just as he’s being wheeled into the operating theater, he suddenly, half deliriously shouts, “Where have I heard that voice?” During the relatively simple procedure something goes inexplicably wrong with his breathing, and he dies on the table. Naturally, a pro forma investigation is required and, in due course Inspector Cockrill — imagine a British Columbo — realizes that the patient has actually been murdered. But how? By whom? And why? In a tragic sense, the war itself is the ultimate cause.

Only seven flawed but essentially likable people ever saw the old man, yet one of them must be the killer. As Cockrill’s investigation continues, the murderer strikes again, this time carefully leaving the victim’s body laid out in a soiled and torn hospital gown. .... (more)
Michael Dirda, "Classic mysteries are having a moment. Here are a few of my favorites," The Washington Post, June 16, 2023.

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