Reviewed for Minding Spot
George Surridge, director of the Birmington Zoo, is a man with many worries: his marriage is collapsing; his finances are insecure; and an outbreak of disease threatens the animals in his care.
As Surridge's debts mount and the pressure on him increases, he begins to dream of miracle solutions. But is he cunning enough to turn his dreams into reality - and could he commit the most devious murder in pursuit of his goals? (taken from the back of the book)
This book was originally published in 1938. Why is this important? This was over seventy-five years ago! In that span of time, so much has changed in the writing world! Much has changed in the mystery world! This book is an incredible example of writing that can truly stand the test of time. It's every bit as enjoyable today as it was when it was first published.
As with most mystery/crime novels of the time, I was completely stumped. Most mysteries today are so easy to figure out! There are exceptions, but they're few and far between. Even though we know who the murderer is, and we have all of the information that the police seek, I was still baffled. The manner in which the crime was committed is absolutely brilliant. I had no idea how it was done, even having all the necessary information, until it was all said and done. Thankfully, the inspectors solved it for me!
What's most fascinating about this book is the advanced character study going on. Each character is so thoroughly crafted that you feel as if you're reading non-fiction. It's hard to believe that Crofts created each of these characters. The hours alone it must have taken him just in character creation! Surridge, our main character, is sublimely fascinating. Even though he's supposed to be the 'bad guy', you can't help but root for him. He's not really a bad man. He's no saint, but he's not really bad. We're given all of his motivations and we sit right there with him while he questions himself and his own morals. Instead of this book being just about the crime portion of the story, it's also about George Surridge.
With strong characters, brilliant crime, and a superbly-worded story, this is one of the best mysteries I've read in awhile. I only wish I'd been introduced to Crofts work before now.