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Plain Murder by C. S. Forester

Plain Murder

by C. S. Forester

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Another hidden gem from C.S. Forester; one of a short cannon of his early works, this is a dark study of a psychopath and his murderous activities. Charles Morris is the uninspiring advertising agency clerk, who embarks on a murder as the solution to his problems - a one-off event which inevitably leads to more killings before eventually spiralling out of control.

Forester's grasp of his narrative is iron-tight and despite the darkness of the subject matter, displays an ironic humour alongside an antipathy towards his protagonist. Some of the prose feels a bit heavy at times, but this was written in the early 1930s, and is a product of its time in terms of style and the use of language. But don't let this put you off, because this is a fascinating and gripping psychological study of the murderous intent of a man who refuses to be thwarted by the realities and limits of acceptable behaviour.

These days we're used to reading 'why-dunnits', as opposed to 'who-dunnits', but in the 1930s, this depth of characterisation and psychosocial insight was rare in mainstream crime fiction. Forester's long-forgotten and little known early thrillers are must-reads for all lovers of quality crime fiction.

© Koplowitz 2012 ( )
1 vote Ant.Harrison | Apr 28, 2013 |
"Killing for killing's sake is extraordinarily rare, but killing for quite inadequate motives is much more usual."

London in the 1920s is a grim place if you don't have a job, and three men at the Universal Advertising Agency are facing the prospect of unemployment after their supervisor, Harrison, caught them taking bribes. But before Harrison can report their doings to the big boss, one of the men, Morris, decides that the best way out of their predicament is to kill him. After all, nobody else knows what they did, so the fuss ends with a well-planned murder. Right?

Well, those best-laid plans have a way of not going quite right, and the killing instinct has a way of catching up to a man. Forester's portrait of Morris, the murderer of "necessity", as he develops a taste for blood, is a chilling one, and the story never lets up over its 200 pages. I could not put this book down. The polished writing helps the story go down smoothly despite its almost reckless fast pace. Like Forester's first crime novel, Payment Deferred, this is a very satisfying book for those who like mysteries but get literary indigestion from the doorstoppers many writers feel obligated to churn out these days. This is mystery writing boiled down to the essence. Another book I will buy simply for loaning to people. Highly recommended. ( )
  rabbitprincess | Jul 16, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0141198133, Paperback)

At the Universal Advertising Agency on the Strand, London, a murder is being planned. Three men have been discovered taking bribes and face the grim prospect of the dole queue, unless they can get rid of the person who caught them. Their ringleader, thick-set and vicious Mr Morris, soon discovers that killing is far easier than he thought - and that he even has a talent for it. He might, he feels, be superhuman. But as he will discover, there is no such thing as the perfect crime, and no deed goes unpunished. Taking us into a 1930s London of grimy back streets, smoky cafes and shabby rooms, "Plain Murder", C.S. Forester's second crime novel, is a brilliantly atmospheric and gripping portrayal of the dark heart of a killer.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:31 -0400)

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Two city clerks succumb to a powerful temptation to murder. To conceal it, they are forced into one crime after another.

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An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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