The Progress of a Crime

June 10, 2007 at 9:30 pm 26 comments

Just finished the Progress of a Crime by Julian Symons.  Written in 1960, I felt that it still holds up as a good novel.  It won the 1960 Edgar Award for best mystery of the year, and it was well deserved.  While not a mystery in the traditional sense, it really discusses crime and the aftermath. 

It surrounds the life of Hugh Bennett, a small time reporter who gets involved in writing an article about juvenile delinquents.   It seems that a week ago, a few of them went to a dance in a nearby town and caused a bit of a stir, and were told to leave the premises.   Hugh travels to the town on Guy Fawkes night, where a huge bonfire is lit and fireworks are sent flying.   He meets Mr. Corby, the man responsible for throwing out the teens on the previous week.  While there, the teens return and create a melee.   Corby is stabbed several times and is left to die.  Hugh Bennet is now a witness to a crime, but what did he actually see?  How much can he make out during a dark night with only the light of the fire?

What follows is a sensational trial as two of the boys are arrested and tried for the murder.  In the case of Leslie Winter, a newspaper in London gets involved and in return for a story, offers to hire a good lawyer and pay for all court costs involved.  Leslie Winter’s sister is certain of his innocence and implores Bennett to help.   Bennett is at first convinced that he did see Winters lunge at Corby but then retracts his evidence.  Do the police have enough to convict the boys?  And just how does the newspaper’s involvement affect the case?

The answers to these questions make for an interesting read.  The story is more about the politics behind a trial and the reliability of witnesses.  I am sure much of what was true in 1960 is still true today, though I doubt whether they would allow a newspaper to fund the defense of  a possible criminal.

The Progress of a Crime was a quick read, and the dust jacket listed some other novels written by Symons and I think I would like to give him another try.   Sometimes the old novels are the best, and I am happy to have discovered him. 

Just started “After a Dead Dog” by Colin Murray but am not far enough along to give you a taste of that one just yet.  Give you something to look forward to.   Happy reading everyone!

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Entry filed under: books.

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