My first encounter with Michael Gilbert was the excellent WW2 impossible crime novel, The Danger Within. Seeking out more of his work, I was naturally drawn to Death Has Deep Roots by the gorgeous cover of the Dell edition that I happened to stumble on. It seemed to be a fortunate find – Death Has Deep Roots is the book that preceded The Danger Within, and is itself preceded by another of Gilbert’s most lauded novels – Smallbone Deceased. Perhaps I had found myself in a solid run of Gilbert’s mystery catalog.
Let’s be clear – Death Has Deep Roots is not an impossible crime novel. Nor is it the type of GAD mystery that you’d usually find me covering on this site. I’d say that a mystery lurks beneath the surface, but isn’t quite true. Instead, the mystery is the surface, and a very different tale lurks beneath.
Continue reading “Death Has Deep Roots – Michael Gilbert (1951)”
The Danger Within first flickered onto my radar a little over a year ago while I was reviewing Tomcat’s list My Favorite Locked Room Mysteries over at Beneath the Stains of Time.
“This is one of my all-time favorite mystery novels from the post-WWII era and of the best blends of the formal detective story, thriller elements and a semi-autobiographic at the same time. The setting is a POW camp in Italy and has a nifty impossible situation: a man has been found dead in a secret escape tunnel and the entrance was blocked with a furnace, which needed the combined strength of half a dozen men to budge as much as an inch.”
A locked room mystery set in a WWII POW camp? Sign me up please.
While I spent my childhood consuming a hefty amount of mystery and science fiction, I more than dabbled in tales of the trenches. The idea of an impossible crime taking place on a battlefield or in a prison camp is intriguing beyond simply stepping outside of the expected setting of a country house or the odd castle. You expect death in war time, and I’ve heard of more than one GAD novel in which a murderer has attempted to disguise their deed among the ruins of bombed out England. The actual theatre of war is different though. There, death simply is. The notion that a friend could become foe in the face of a clearly defined common adversary is no unique concept – just see Platoon. Still, mix in an impossible-style murder plot and I’m all game.
Continue reading “The Danger Within – Michael Gilbert (1952)”