Thursday, April 14, 2016

Murder Off the Record by John Bingham


John Bingham worked with John le Carré at MI6 during the Cold War and Bingham’s success as a mystery novelist was partially responsible for inspiring le Carré when he later became a novelist himself. Bingham was reportedly the direct inspiration for le Carré’s famous character, George Smiley. I’ve never been much of a le Carré fan although I acknowledge his appeal. Murder Off the Record is a 1960 Dell paperback with a cover painting by Robert A. MaGuire. Bingham writes with a steadfast assurance that propels the action with enough gusto to make it work. Edging dangerously close to the parlor room mysteries of the Victorian era, Bingham manages to avoid clichés although it all seems a bit pretentious at times. There are some clever twists and lively dialogue. Told in the first person by a reporter named David, the tale involves a murderer named Leslie George Arnold Braithwaite. In the ensuing months David unravels the tale of Braithwaite’s life, eventually coming to understand him as a monstrous killer. Bingham lets the suspense build as David goes through his motions. A seeming coincidence might have dire ramifications and so on. Murder Off the Record is solid, suspenseful and satisfying. This is the only book by John Bingham I have ever read. The cover blurb reads: “Beneath her mask of beauty lay a web of violent death.” A key plot twist lies in discovering who precisely that woman is. I wasn’t disappointed and the conclusion ties it off in a stiff-upper lip fashion

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