RogerBW's Blog

Paul Temple and the Gilbert Case 30 June 2021

1954 audio thriller by Francis Durbridge, in eight parts: Paul Temple is a professional novelist and amateur sleuth. A young woman is murdered, and her boyfriend is set to hang. But her father is convinced that the man is innocent.

There's rather more urgency in this setup than usual: all the evidence points the man's guilt, and only a vague feeling of uncertainty from the father – who gave evidence against Gilbert himself – gets Temple involved at all. It's a little thin, and the actual evidence turns out to be thinner still, though of course when there's a bolshy young man and no other explanation the police and courts are quite happy to go for the obvious answer.

It does all rather fall apart towards the end, with sudden revelations of un-foreshadowed stolen jewellery and microfilm and dead master criminals and no, no, this is all just too much. If you want us to treat the thing as a mystery rather than "the master sleuth explains why he was right all along", you have to give the reader some of the background, though of course one can work out quite a bit from knowing which people had been told what. There are also slightly too many characters, most of whom sound rather too much like each other.

But it's saved by Marjorie Westbury as Paul's wife Steve, who gets rather more of a role here than in some of the other Paul Temple serials I've heard; she's Paul's sounding-board and explanation-target as always, but also manages to do quite a bit in her own right. The best moment of the whole thing for me was when she put off a bumptious suspect with:

"Miss Wayne's an old friend of mine. I gather you know each other."

"Slightly."

with a gorgeous chill in the voice.

This series hasn't ever risen to greatness, but this early one has more of a sense of fun than the others I've heard so far.

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