In the second book in the Nigel Strangeways classic crime series, the poet turned private detective is called in to help a World War One fighter pilot who has been receiving death threats.
Fergus O'Brien, a legendary World War One flying ace with several skeletons hidden in his closet, receives a series of mocking letters predicting that he will be murdered on Boxing Day. Undaunted, O'Brien throws a Christmas party, inviting everyone who could be suspected of making the threats, along with private detective Nigel Strangeways. But despite Nigel's presence, the former pilot is found dead, just as predicted, and Nigel is left to aid the local police in their investigation while trying to ignore his growing attraction to one of the other guests - and suspects - explorer Georgina Cavendish.
Thou Shell of Death is a dazzlingly complex and addictive listen, laced with literary allusions, from a master of detective fiction.
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.
"It has all the virtues of culture, intelligence and sensibility that the most exacting connoisseur could ask of detective fiction." (Times Literary Supplement)
"A master of detective fiction." (Daily Telegraph)
"The Nicholas Blake books are something quite by themselves in English detective fiction." (Elizabeth Bowen)
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Crack this nut
Classical convoluted whodunnit
Nigel visiting Ireland
Nigel being invited for a sparring bout
It is light-hearted entertainment in the style of Agatha Christie and others - all about a gentleman sleuth. To enjoy, but not particularly moving.
Nicholas Blake is the pseudonym of Cecil Day-Lewis (yup, father of Daniel Day-Lewis). He was a professor in English Literature, specifically poetry, and taught poetry in Oxford. That is apparent in this book and others in the series. The language is in places quite rich and fruity, there are numerous references to poets and quotations from their work, and the odd reference to Oxford. Nigel Strangeways may be a gentleman sleuth, but on many occasions he comes across as an eccentric Oxford don and bachelor. The narrator actually portrays him thus as well, making him sound somewhat older than he apparently is. In the previous book he drank enormous amounts of tea, and although very fond of it still, his consumption is somewhat less in this book. The narration is excellent by the way.
- Monsieur Ghost