Nothing Hid, by Archibald Marshall. Houghton Mifflin Co., 1935. Hdbk. Grubby green cloth boards. Some foxing stains on endpapers and along edges, but otherwise a clean reading copy. 286 pp.
Murder by arsenic poisoning! Courtroom drama! Powerful speeches for both the defence and the prosecution! Did Hubert Borrowdale really kills his best friend, Colonel Cairn? Will he hang for it? Will our hero, Sir Simon Grael, get to marry the lovely Esther? (Spoiler alert: yes, he will.)
This is every bit as entertaining as any other competently written Marshall confection, all of which sold like hot cakes (especially in the USA) as soon as they rolled off the press during the first two or three centuries of the twentieth century. It is essentially one of those novels in which the author dons the tragic, not the comic mask; and it’s something more than a mere murder mystery, since the element of detection involved is negligible, and the ‘human interest’ content is somewhat to the fore. Some have called Marshall Anthony Trollope’s successor. This is decidedly to overestimate his literary importance; but he still has his devoted following, and deservedly so. He knows how to tell a good story, and constructs solid, consistently interesting plots, that keep the reader turning the pages. The actual murderer, once this individual’s identity has been revealed, is clearly something of a psychopath: something I was not expecting from this author. One could squander one’s spondoolicks much more recklessly elsewhere, and with far less pleasure for your pains, than when investing in one of his enjoyable novels, all of which come with lashings of period flavour.