Monday, April 21, 2014

Vintage Mystery #10

I read this book for the Vintage Mystery Bingo Reading Challenge 2014. The challenge is to read 6 or more Vintage Mysteries. All novels must have been originally written before 1960 and be from the mystery category.

I read this for D-2: Mystery with Courtroom, Lawyers

According to the Evidence – Henry Cecil, 1954

"It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer,” goes the formulation by the English jurist William Blackstone.  But in this novel, due to a lack of evidence a serial killer is acquitted, and goes on to kill not one but two women. An ex-commando, Alec Morland, takes the law into own hands and dispatches the serial killer over the edge of cliff.

The evidence tying Morland to the murder is tenuous, but  Morland’s fiancĂ© Jill worries that suspicion will never be dispelled and thus blight their family life.  She asks con man turned stockbroker Ambrose Low to figure out a way to get Morland to trial and get him acquitted. Low turns to witness tampering (interfering, in British English), which blows up in his face.

Henry Cecil was a barrister and high court judge himself so his views on evidence, judges, juries, lawyers, and clients are worth listening to. His legal fiction from the Fifites and Sixties is still in print, because his wit, style, intelligence, and deft plotting still provide much interest and sheer reading pleasure. The writing is lucid, simplified for the lay reader, but we never feel condescended to.

While this is not a typical whodunit, I still recommend it to mystery fans. Cecil’s humor is very English, wise, and humane. He uses Wodehousian characters such a dim-witted colonel to delightful effect, putting them in situations designed to exploit all comic potential.


  1. I read this last year. I'm hoping to read more of Cecil later this year. This book was hilarious at parts. Exactly my kind of humor -- verbal, punny, and at times just plain silly. I embarrassed myself on the bus on my commute to work a couple of times sputtering and stifling my usual very loud guffaw. Glad to see someone else discovering Cecil, enjoying his work and writing about him.

  2. Very interesting take on the detective novel--wanting to get Morland on trial but acquitted. And I like that there are Wodehousian characters.