Friday’s Forgotten Book: Desire to Kill by Alice Campbell (1934)

Thomas Rostetter finds himself attending a party thrown by enfant terrible Dodo . The party consists of painters and writers and spiritual gurus and their disciples, all of whom are painted in mostly negative terms except for the American girl, Dinah Blake, a budding painter. The ‘saintly’ Dinah has been badly hurt by Dodo who it seems stole away Dinah’s boyfriend, Christopher Loughton, undersecretary at the American embassy. At the party, Dodo makes everyone partake a sweetmeat made of Indian drugs, which is supposed to bring one’s hidden desires to the forefront. After a night of revelling, after which everyone drops down tired, Dodo is found murdered in the morning, a dagger and Dinah missing from the scene. Later when Dinah returns, claiming she had lost her memory, the police want to arrest her as she seems to have a perfect motive for killing Dodo. Thomas who has taken a liking to the one-with-the-halo-around-her-head however pretends to be engaged to her so that the police cannot claim that it was because of losing her lover to Dodo that Dinah killed her. This invariably leads to complications.

At first the book bored me horribly, especially as it seemed to be nothing but a paean to Dinah, but then it suddenlty picked up tempo and became quite interesting. While there is hardly any doubt about the culprit, I kept on thinking that had the novel taken a different turn it would have made it real twisty and a crime classic.

The author Alice Campbell is in the news as her books have been republished by Dean Street Press. Have you read her?


First Line: On the upper floor of a luxurious apartment, near the prow of Ile St. Louis, a woman, stout, middle-aged and American, suddenly woke up.

Publication Details: 1934. London: Collins (The Crime Club), 1934.

Pages: 316

Trivia: The book is dedicated to fellow mystery writer: Valentine Williams


I have come to know that actor James Caan has passed away. He was absolutely the best thing about The Godfather.

Adieu Sonny.

2 thoughts on “Friday’s Forgotten Book: Desire to Kill by Alice Campbell (1934)

  1. I haven’t read Campbell’s work, Neeru, but I’m glad you thought there were some good things about this novel. Interesting how sometimes, the first half of a novel doesn’t work well, but the second half picks up; I think the reverse sometimes happens, too. In any case I wonder if it was her debut, since there were a few things that could have been stronger?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No, this is not her debut, Margot. She had already written some three-four novels before this. Books that end well despite a weak beginning are much preferable to books that begin on a strong note and end with a whimper. It is always the ending of the book that makes or breaks it for me.

      Liked by 1 person

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