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Mystery Monday Review – A Fragment of Fear by John Bingham

A Fragment of Fear by John Bingham

Review by Matt B. (buffalosavage)

Mystery writer James Compton vacations in Italy in order to follow his doctor’s orders to rest. At Pompeii, the strangulation death of an elderly Englishwoman, Lucy Dawson, draws his attention as a subject for an article or story. During the course of his researches, he receives telephone calls in which a cultured voice urbanely warns him off. When Compton persists in his amateur sleuthing, the threats become more overt and frightening. Like Ruth Rendall writing as Barbara Vine, Bingham creates an atmosphere of menace.

Unlike the plucky amateurs in Eric Ambler or Andrew Garve’s novels, Compton is no match for the villains that want to stop his poking his proboscis into matters that don’t concern him. Bingham liked a little too much to explain behavior with so-called “national characteristics” so he has Compton, who tells the story in first-person, explain his stubbornness with “Irish bloody-mindedness and combativeness.” The irony, too, is that though Compton is a mystery writer, he can handle neither the bad guys nor the cops, who attribute his paranoia to the trauma of the car accident.

Like William Haggard’s gladiatorial arenas of board rooms, swanky clubs, and bureaus of espionage, Bingham’s world – that is, the Hobbesian state of nature — is fraught with danger. Bingham’s day job was, after, in counter-intelligence, where they are paid to anticipate the worst case threats to the realm. Near the end Bingham has Compton reflect, “the peasant is surrounded by more than he imagines. Behind the eyes which observe him are yet others, which observe those eyes in their turn, and behind the predators slithering in the undergrowth are yet others, stalking the predators …. We live in dangerous times. All one can do is to keep the spear ready…touch the amulet, and hope for the best, and trust that, as in my case, the tribe can after all protect not only the tribe but the individual.”





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One Response to “Mystery Monday Review – A Fragment of Fear by John Bingham”

  1. Sharon Huling says:

    Sounds delicious!

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