Harry Carmichael is one of the pseudonyms employed by British crime writer and journalist, Leopold Horace Ognall (20 June 1908 – 12 April 1979). I was surprised to read that he had published more than 90 novels because before reading this book I had heard of him only vaguely and had no idea that he was this prolific. Going by this book, he really should be more well-known.
Death Trap is the 31st novel in Carmichael’s Piper and Quinn series. John Piper is an insurance assessor while Quinn is a crime reporter. By this outing, Quinn suffers from constant coughing while Piper feels guilty about the distance growing between him and his friend because of Piper’s second marriage. His first wife, Quinn recollects, had died in an accident when John was driving. These tidbits of their lives and their engaging dialogue made me keen to know more about their early association.
By the time he finished coughing he was completely out of breath. Piper said, ‘Why you smoke at all baffles me. Can’t be doing you any good.’
‘It’s not supposed to do me good. I smoke in the interests of public health.’
‘Now you’re talking nonsense -as usual.’
‘No, it’s true. When I go on a train or a bus or what-have-you and light up, people listen to my cough and then get rid of their cigarettes as if they tasted of wormwood and gall. I do more for the anti-smoking campaign than all of the Ministry of Health propaganda. When I die they’ll bury me in St. Paul’s with a plaque to record that I gave up my life for the balance of payments by helping to cut down imports of Virginial tobacco.’
The novel begins when Piper rings up the home of one David Bennet since they always used to meet along with a few others to have drinks and dinner on the first Wednesday night of every month. The phone is answered by David’s wife Ruth who tells Piper that David must be on his way since he never missed either his golf or dinner engagement on that day. Piper then calls up David’s golfing partner, Norman Grantham, who tells him that David had played with him as usual and had told him that he’d be going to the dinner afterwards. When finally Ruth Bennet calls up the police, Inspector Long is out investigating a road accident. A car had fallen down a ravine and then caught fire with the result that the body of the driver is charred beyond recognition. However, a watch is found at the site of the accident which Ruth says is that of her husband. It seems like an unfortunate case of speeding. However, Inspector Long is perplexed by a few things and talks to his seniors. The police agrees to make further inquiries. Meanwhile Piper is asked by Grantham to investigate things as the latter doesn’t like the aspersions that the police is casting on his friend, David. Piper, who is also intrigued by the case, agrees to do so. Quinn too is asked by his newspaper to report on the case. As the police, Piper, and Quinn start their investigations, they realise that the more they unravell, the more things become murkier…
I enjoyed this book tremendously. It is a good mystery with a good plot and characterization and some real moments of unsettling. The dynamics between Piper and Quinn also fascinated me a lot. Definitely planning to read more of this duo. Have you read this author?
First Line: On Wednesday, December 2, George Holden and his brother Tom left their premises in Lingford’s wholesale vegetable market at five o’clock and walked to the multi-storey car park in New Street.
NY: McCall publishing Company, 1971
First Published: 1970
Series: Piper & Quinn #31
Source: Open Library