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Enter Sir John

Page history last edited by Jon 11 years, 3 months ago

Dane, Clemence and Simpson, Helen -- Enter Sir John (1929)

 

I had been looking forward to reading this famous book for some time. It's interesting and entertaining, providing some insight into the provincial drama profession as it was in the 1920s, though its detective elements are very weak and its motive scarcely credible. But as an inspiration for Strong Poison, amongst other stories, the book is worth reading.

 

The Druce repertory company is appearing at Peridu when their most promising young actress, Marcella Baring, quarrels with the manager's wife, Edna Druce. They make up, and celebrate their reconciliation with a dinner at Marcella's boarding-house rooms; but by the end of the evening Edna Druce has had her head bashed in with a poker. 

 

There is a trial, and Marcella, with nothing to say in her own defence, is found guilty. The news comes to the ears of prominent actor-manager Sir John Saumarez, who many months ago recommended Marcella for the job. He attends the trial, and with the aid of the company's stage-manager Nello Markham and his wife Doucie, he sets about trying to save her from the gallows.

 

Saumarez is well-drawn, and there is a good deal of humour in the way his efforts are depicted. The underlying message of the book, though -- the only way to ensure justice is to have a wealthy patron prepared to spend large amounts of money -- is one I found hard to take. The fact that Sir John needs several remarkable coincidences to solve the case, and the desperately implausible incompetence of the police in the initial investigation, also make this a hard book to suspend one's disbelief in. It also contains one of the most embarrassingly awkward proposals in English literature.

 

Jon.

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