A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
Frank Cairns may be a crime novelist by trade, but the murder and mayhem he writes about are entirely foreign to his quiet suburban life. That is, until his young son is killed by a hit and run driver. Seeking revenge, Cairns embarks on a violent course of action seemingly torn from the pages of his own books. Chronicling the whole thing in his journal, Frank does the detective work, discovers his son’s killer, and plots a vicious murder. Yet, when his intended victim is found dead and the incriminating journal brought to light, Frank claims he is innocent. Can detective Nigel Strangeways prove that Cairns never committed the crime he so deliberately planned?
Nicholas Blake, was the pseudonym of Cecil Day Lewis, U.K. Poet Laureate (and yes, father of actor Daniel Day Lewis). Along with his acclaimed poetry and literary criticism, Lewis managed to write sixteen Nigel Strangeways novels. Published in 1938, The Beast Must Die is the fourth book in the series. In this particular entry, the emphasis of the story is not really on the detective, but the suspect. Lewis gives us a good deal of insight into the psychology of the revenge seeker, not to mention the psychological destruction he wreaks on the small circle of people that are drawn into his plot. That plot itself is quite twisty, and the solution (somewhat improbably) clever.
I am a firm believer that The Beast Must Die is one of the finest of classic British mysteries. It works wonderfully as a stand alone, but if you like to read your mystery series in chronological order you’ll want to start with A Question of Proof—not quite the equal of this book, but a great mystery nonetheless and the best introduction to the character of Nigel Strangeways. It’s a shame that the Strangeways books are not better known here in the States, all of them are well worth the time of any mystery fan.
Other books in the Nigel Strangeways series available from Thomas Ford:
Review by Matthew