Book of the Week: Death of an Airman

This week’s book of the week is a rediscovered Classic crime novel, Christopher St John Spriggs’ Death of an Airman – first published in 1934 and now re-released as part of the British Library’s Crime Classics series.  Regular readers of this blog will know that I love Golden Age Crime (and re-listen to a Peter Wimsey audiobook at least once a month) and this was right up my alley.

George Furnace is a flying instructor at Baston Aero Club – killed when his plane crashes.  But the people who knew him are baffled – he was a skilled pilot and the plane was in perfect condition.  Although the inquest decides it was death by misadventure, a visiting Australian bishop suspects the truth may be more complicated.  Is it suicide?  Or murder?  Together with Inspector Bray a very cunning scheme is uncovered.

This is brilliant.  I’ll admit that I don’t know enough about flying (and in particular 1930s flying) to be able to tell you how accurate the aeroplane information is, but it certainly all made sense to me – and the titular death is brilliantly contrived.  I didn’t figure out all the solution until very late on – at which point I appreciated how clever Spriggs had been in dropping hints earlier in the book which passed off as totally innocuous at the time.

I’ve now read about half a dozen titles in this British Library Crime series – and have really enjoyed discovering forgotten murder mysteries from my favourite era – which in many cases rival their more well known counterparts – the Wimseys, the Poirots etcs.  The actual paperback copies look lovely (although they are a weird inbetween size) and some serious knowledge of the genre has clearly gone into the selection.  I read two from the series last week – I didn’t enjoy the other one as much, but it was clearly an important book in the development of the genre – and I’ll keep looking out for more.

My copy came via NetGalley – but it should be out now in book shops (I’ve seen and bought titles in the series in both Waterstones and Foyles usually displayed with a couple of others from the series) but if you can’t wait to get to a proper book seller, then here are some links – Foyles, Waterstones, Amazon, Kindle – although I couldn’t find it on Kobo.

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