Having rattled through this in just over – ooh, 31 years – I thought I’d just quickly write about it.
The reason it took me 31 years to read is simple. In 1984 the BBC adapted it into a series. I watched, absolutely fascinated (coming from a family of fans of Agatha Christie, Ruth Rendell, Ngaio Marsh and the ilk, that’s hardly surprising). What amazed me was the “not proven” verdict – that strange halfway house between “well, you might have done something, but they’ve not actually proved there was a murder there in the first place”. The series of four dramatic reconstructions having finished, I took the book on holiday to read. Alas, I left my copy on the boat on the way to France, having read only the first chapter.
So, 31 years… a record for me. Was it worth the wait?
Actually, yes. House’s chatty, informal style is eminently readable. The occasional incursion of Scots dialect is enough to remind you that you’re reading about cases in Scotland, but not enough to put off the casual reader (such as myself) who’s never set foot north of Hadrian’s wall (or indeed, several miles south of it if I’m being honest.) There’s one occasion where House strays from the facts and allows himself a little bit of conjecture – just enough to make you think “I wonder whether that’s what really happened, or…”
The cases are varied, and while this isn’t a Ripperologist-level investigation of every case, there’s enough detail in there to give you the broad facts of the case without making you overwhelmed with detail.
It’s an enjoyable read if – sadly – out of print. I obtained my copy from Amazon for 1p. It’s worth more than that – if you want to spend a cool £30 (at time of writing), you can have a hardback version. But with winter approaching, it’s a fun little read if you can grab a copy.