H is for Hamlet, Revenge! by Michael Innes

Michael Innes (J.I.M Stewart) is one of my favourite Golden-Age writers and there was a time when I read his books one after the other till I ran through all the titles the various libraries (I frequent) had on their shelves. After all these years, the titles and the plots are a little hazy but one I remember enjoying immensely is Hamlet, Revenge!*

First published in 1937 – with war-clouds gathering once again – the book combines elements of a who-dun-it with the spy-novel. The setting is one I particularly love: an old country-house. Scotland Sleuth (and Innes’ Detective-Hero) John Appleby, is present in Scamnum Court, the seat of the Duke of Horton, during the presentation of an amateur production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet when the staged death of Polonius turns real. The Lord Chancellor who is playing the role is shot dead right at the moment when Hamlet is about to run his sword through him. Since the Lord Chancellor was involved in some hush-hush affair regarding England’s defence, the safety of the country is suddenly in jeopardy. A number of deaths occur next (including that of an Indian Bengali Academic) as Appleby matches wits with a murderer who challenges him by sending cheeky notes. 

Though I missed some of the allusions, it was fun to go through the witty repartee. The title itself is taken from an earlier version of the play in which the ghost of the king prompts his dilly-dallying son to take his revenge.

Entry for letter H in the Crime Fiction Alphabet Meme.

* The book I have now discovered is on the Bloomsbury 100 Must-Read Crime Novels. 

13 thoughts on “H is for Hamlet, Revenge! by Michael Innes

  1. I have read one Innes book, Death at the President's Lodging. I like the character of Applebee and the puzzle was very good but I didn't enjoy the setting and there were so many 'professors'!. I think I would enjoy this setting much better!


  2. There is hardly any Innes Book that I didn't like except for Operation Pax which I hated. Do read this. Along with Appleby's End, this is a favourite read.


  3. The last few years I've started reading more of Michael Innes and finally appreciating them. Hamlet Revenge is on my TBR pile whence I plucked Appleby's End just last week and enjoyed it very much, and now goes to the top of it.


  4. Appleby's End is the first Innes I read and is my favourite amongst all his books. The comic touch is wonderful. I rank, Hamlet, Revenge! very high too.Thanks for visiting the blog and leaving a comment.


  5. I also read a lot of Michael Innes books years ago and now I cannot remember which I read, so hope to reread them all eventually. I know I read the ones with Honeybath. I have this one and the first one and this motivates me to read both soon. At least before the end of the year.


  6. This is probably one of the best of the Appleby books, but I am not a huge fan of Innes actually – not sure what the reason is exactly (I like Blake and Crispin for instance), they just seemed to drag for me a bit so I stopped reading them – but this one always stood out in my mind at least! Thanks for the very enjoyable review.


  7. It is, I think, my second favourite after Appleby's End. Somehow in my mind, Crispin and Innes always appear like twins, perhaps because I discovered them both round the same time. I enjoy Innes more than Blake and Crispin but than I've read only one of Blake to really form a judgement.Thanks for visiting.


  8. Hi Neer,You seem to know a lot about Michael Innes and appreciate his work greatly. I work at audible.co.uk and have recently acquired all his titles… well nearly, there are a lot of them! I was wondering whether you'd like to write an article on Innes and return we will acknowledge you and your blog and give you some complementary credits. Here is a link to some of the articles that our editors are writing and what we'd love you to write for us about Michael Innes. Take a look at all the articles we have so far: http://www.audible.co.uk/mt/spotlight-hill (there are links on the right hand side of the page that take you to other articles.We are on a tight deadline with this and would need your submission by Thurs 15 Nov!If you are interested, have any questions or would like to hear more, please contact me on: amahal@audible.co.uk before Monday and I will get back to you asap.Many thanks and look forward to hearing from you.Anjum MahalMerchandising ManagerAudible.co.uk


  9. Neer, I just saw this post and of course I had to say something about Innes. Especially since I've lately been on an Innes binge. 🙂 I've enjoyed almost all the Appleby books and the stand-alones as well. I have a different take on OPERATION PAX, though. I LOVED IT. I even have it on audio. I love the ending at the Bodleian Libary. Lots of fun. Innes writes like no one else, that's for sure. I have two more (they arrived in the mail yesterday) waiting to be read and my trouble is that soon I'll have read them all. Oh well, then I'll have to begin again. 🙂


  10. Yvette, I love it when people comment on an earlier post, so thank you so much. I'll always be grateful to Innes because it was Innes who led me to your blog. At that time you were wondering about him and I am so glad that you fell so much in love with him. I am sure I must have enjoyed reading your reviews. Have you reviewed OPERATION PAX? I had a sneaking suspicion that you'd like it.:) Well, after BRAT FARRAR and THE MONKEY'S RAINCOAT, another difference of opinion. But it is fun when that happens. Incidentally, because of your passionate defence of him, I did pick up Cole''s VOODOO RIVER at a book sale. How is it? Which are the Innes that you have received?


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