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Posts Tagged ‘missing valuables’

THE HIDDEN MAN by Robin Blake: Book Review

Small-town England in the eighteenth century might seem a very different place from twentieth-century America.  But theft, murder, and greed know no boundaries in time or space.

Titus Cragg is a lawyer and the coroner in the town of Preston.  As the novel opens he receives a letter from Phillip Pimbo, a seller of gold and silver in Preston and a respected citizen.  At this time in England, banks in small towns were almost unheard of, and valuables were kept in strongboxes in people’s homes or temporarily given to pawnbrokers who had secure safes until the valuables were needed.  Phillip has boasted to Titus in the past that his strong room was as safe as “the Bastille of Paris lodged inside the Tower of London.”

But Phillip also said that most of the money deposited with him and belonging to the town wasn’t in the strong room at all.  Instead, he has loaned the money out to a source that has promised a huge return.  The town, anxious to secure as much funding as possible in order to celebrate the Preston Guild, a once-every-twenty-year festival, agreed to this, but only Phillip knows to whom the money was loaned.  Now Titus has received a letter from Phillip referring to a “matter of wrong-doing,” and Titus wonders, as he makes his way to the pawnbroker’s office, if the matter pertains to the town’s money left in his care.

When Titus arrives at Phillip’s office to discuss the letter, the man is nowhere to be seen.  A sign on his office door says that he is not to be disturbed, but at Titus’s insistence Phillip’s chief cashier knocks on the door.  

There’s no answer, and the door is locked.  A locksmith is called but is unable to open it, so finally the door is battered down.  And there is Phillip Pimbo’s body, lying across his desk, a blood-caked hole on the top of his bald head.

Titus and everyone else in the office see the case as a case of suicide, although they don’t know of any reason that the respected businessman would kill himself.  But when the town’s doctor, Luke Fidelis, appears, he isn’t so quick to make the same judgment.  If, he asks Titus, Phillip killed himself, where is the wig he always wore?

The interaction between the two main characters, Titus Cragg and Luke Fidelis, adds to the strength of the novel.  Both men are smart and dedicated to finding the truth, but narrator Titus doesn’t delve into matters as deeply as does the more scientific Luke.  There’s the slightest bit of Watson and Holmes here, but Titus is much brighter than Watson, and there’s no hero worship in Titus’s relation to Luke.  There’s just friendship, and that’s perfect.

You can read more about Robin Blake at this web site

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.