For several years the British Library have been publishing their Crime Classics series, containing titles from the ‘golden age’ of detective fiction and beyond. Some of them are quite well-known, others more obscure.
This particular novel, Family Matters, originally published in 1933, is rather unconventional in comparison to some of the others, in that it’s an inverted mystery – we know from the start who will die, and which other characters would like him dead, but what we only find out at the end is which suspect was actually guilty. What this structure loses in its intrigue it by far makes up in its characterisation (a common criticism levelled at ‘whodunnits’, as revealing too much is a giveaway of the solution). The characters, it has to be said, are pretty unpleasant, and I felt I cared little for any of them. The first quarter of the novel is a bit of a slog, and had this been my first Crime Classic I might have abandoned the book, but I’ve read enough of the series to trust in the titles selected, and so I persisted. I’m glad I did. Whilst this isn’t going to convert anyone to an avid follower of the series, it’s different enough to hold a charm. Not recommended to the casual crime fan – especially one more used to the fast pace of a contemporary crime novel – but for those of us who don’t mind a rather more ponderous and languid read, it’s an entertaining enough way to pass the time.