It is infinitely instructive for writers to read the first novel written by the writers they revere. This is one such writer and his novel.
Michael Gilbert wrote Close Quarters in 1937 and then went off to war, finishing it after he got home from the war (which included his escape from a prisoner of war camp in Italy) and publishing it in 1947. It’s all about the puzzles, the puzzle of timing, the puzzle of who’s lying and who isn’t, the puzzle of who really did see what from which window, the actual crossword puzzle. This is Hazlerigg’s first outing, a Scotland Yard inspector who would return as protagonist and cameo in many future Gilbert books.
Yes, all about the various puzzles, and not at all about character development, or even about setting, both of which come strongly into their own in later novels as Gilbert develops his craft. There are flashes of that subtle foreshadowing he became so good at
The Dean, had he known it, held a good deal of human happiness in his hands at that moment.
and that dry, sly Gilbertian wit so much on display in later works
The Dean, though a man whom Colonel Brabington personally admired and respected, had shown questionable taste (Pollock gathered) in having a nephew in the Metropolitan Police Force at all.
and a few instances of his descriptive powers
…a dispirited bag of toffee.
but this is definitely only a beginning. Everyone has to start somewhere, even Michael Gilbert. I find that heartening.
The 23rd Kate Shugak novel, coming April 11, 2023.
Author and founder of Storyknife.org.