PaperBackSwap Blog

Mystery Monday Review – The Asking Price

The Asking Price by Henry Cecil

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

In Just within the Law, Cecil describes his writing with, “The basis of my stories is the occurrence of an extremely improbable event, followed by completely logical action by all the characters in the story.”

In this comic crime novel, the extremely improbable event comes out of such a situation. In a London neighborhood in the mid-Sixties, Ronald Holbrook lives on a small competence that he built from lucrative dealings on the black market right after WWII. The house bought on the ill-gotten proceeds has been his home for twenty years. At fifty-seven, he finds himself unmarried and with zero intention to marry. However, seventeen-year-old Jane Doughty, the daughter of his next-door neighbors, has been infatuated with him literally her entire life. Her single goal – her steely obsession – is to be married to her Ronnieboy. This situation is first comic, then gradually becomes disturbing and sinister, and we get the extremely improbable event which precipitates another situation.

That’s all the story you’re getting out of me lest I spoil the surprising twists and turns that Cecil puts his characters through. Not only is Cecil gifted as to plotting and characterization (even the walk-ons live and breathe), but he builds suspense as skillfully as, say, Ruth Rendell. The dialogue is sharp and witty and English. Jane asks her Ronnieboy, who’s been resolutely putting off lovemaking, “Do virtuous women have fun? I don’t want to be like the Albert Memorial, all stuck up and nowhere to go.”

For many readers, English comic legal fiction means John Mortimer and his excellent Rumpole stories. Cecil has more generosity and charity and big-heartedness than Mortimer does. I can’t recommend Henry Cecil highly enough for his lucid prose, original tale-spinning, brilliant characterization, deft plotting and spellbinding surprises.




Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply