The Colour of Murder by Julian Symons (1957)

John Wilkins suffers occasionally blackouts, brought on by drinking, which leave him with no memory what he has done during that time. Could he have committed a crime and be completely oblivious to it?

The first section of the book “Before” is John’s statement to a consulting psychologist which details his unhappy marriage to May, his relationship with his mother and Uncle Dan, and his growing infatuation with Sheila Morton, the new librarian.

The second section “After” is concerned with a criminal trial before matters are wrapped up (or are they?) in an epilogue.

This is not a novel of detection, but the then the series is Crime, rather than Mystery, Classics, and is instead an exploration of the difference between how an individual perceives himself and how others see him, followed by a review of the British legal system and how it does, or doesn’t deliver justice.

So not entirely my cup of tea but I enjoyed the writing style and as Martin Edwards says in the introduction “it is also of interest in the way it documents British social history.”

A letter from Sheila to a friend reveals that what John has taken to be encouraging signs are merely pity and kindness which is interesting in light of recent revelations coming from the #MeToo movement where many women say that they don’t wish to offend men and so are nicer to them than they may really want to be which is then misread – something I can relate to in the past which lead to me being overly persistent in, for want of a better phrase, pressing my suit. Not in a physical sense, but in continuing to send Valentine’s etc hoping against hope that eventually my feelings would be reciprocated. In the unlikely event that anyone from my past is reading this and was upset by this type of behaviour then all I can do is say sorry.

Amongst the darker elements, there is humour to be found, in particular this quote from when his hostess tries to seduce him:

“She was a middle-aged woman, nearly forty(!!!), and I felt nothing but disgust.”

Vintage Mystery Challenge

Fulfils “Who – Librarian/bookstore owner/publisher”.



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