A small boy playing in the park is handed a crumpled piece of paper by a stranger, who then collapses and dies. The boy, realising that he himself is now in danger, flees from the park with the help of detective Nigel Strangeways, only to discover that the mysterious message consists of just his own name and age: Bert Hale 12.
Bert and his young friends are confident that they can crack the case but they soon discover that they will need the help of not just Nigel Strangeways, but of the whole British government....
Nicholas Blake was the pseudonym of Poet Laureate Cecil Day-Lewis, who was born in County Laois, Ireland, in 1904. After his mother died, in 1906, he was brought up in London by his father, spending summer holidays with relatives in Wexford. He was educated at Sherborne School and Wadham College, Oxford, from which he graduated in 1927. Blake initially worked as a teacher to supplement his income from his poetry writing and he published his first Nigel Strangeways novel, A Question of Proof, in 1935. Blake went on to write a further 19 crime novels, all but four of which featured Nigel Strangeways, as well as numerous poetry collections and translations. During the Second World War he worked as a publications editor in the Ministry of Information, which he used as the basis for the Ministry of Morale in Minute for Murder, and after the war he joined the publishers Chatto & Windus as an editor and director. He was appointed Poet Laureate in 1968 and died in 1972 at the home of his friend, the writer Kingsley Amis.
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