This is a good, old-fashioned whodunit of the very best kind. Well plotted. Great characters. Great background. Well-written. What more do you need?
The action takes place in a hospital during the Blitz. An ARP Warden dies on the operating table. Although devastating to those involved, it is investigated and pronounced to be an accident. And then one of the nurses claims it was a murder and knows how it was done. When she is found stabbed to death, the whole can of ugly little worms is spilled.
I first came across this in the film version. With a screenplay by Sidney Gilliat and Alastair Sim as the detective (along with a notable cast), you can imagine how good it was – noirish, pacy, and full of menace, yet retaining an understated wit. I had been keeping an eye open for the book for a long time and was glad, finally, to get hold of a copy. It is every bit as good as the film. Well-written, it sticks to the conventions of the whodunit (there are clues from the very beginning and you are never cheated), yet rises above much of the genre to find a place in company with work by the likes of Allingham and Marsh (and better than Christie and Sayers).
I will certainly be keeping my eye out for more of Brand’s work.