Book Review for “The Click of the Gate” by Alice Campbell.
Summary: “Clare – her Clare – was gone. Mystery in Paris! A disappearance as surprising and baffling as if it had been done by magic. A young girl, barely fifteen, beautiful yet shy and under constant protection, disappears in the one moment that is offered. Between the click of a garden gate and the opening of a door. Fifteen seconds! The quiet dispatch of the affair was its most appalling feature. No struggle, no outcry. She had vanished into the thin air with a finality that shocked and puzzled. As the story unfolds a note of sinister intrigue enters in and violence heightens the plot. Charnwood, the Englishman who loves the girl’s mother, works in the dark, as do the Paris police. But the key to the solution lies close to all the characters in the story. This is a fascinating tale of disappearance, murder and adventure-a thriller even for calloused students of crime.”
Age: Adult; Genres: Mystery, Crime, Fiction; Settings: Contemporary; France – Paris (mostly); Other Categories: Novel, Re-Release, Classics, Thriller, Vintage.
First of all, according to Goodreads, this book is 409 pages long which means it qualifies for the Big Book Summer Challenge (and here I thought my reading Fannie Flagg’s “Standing in the Rainbow” would be my only big book of the summer)! But you see, I didn’t notice that when I decided to pick up this book. As my regular readers know, I recently read “Water Weed” by Alice Campbell, which was one of two books that was sent to me by Dean Street Press. I was so impressed with the writing that I had to get straight onto this one. No, they’re not part of a series; none of the characters from that novel have anything to do with the plot or characters in this one. To be honest, I find this to be refreshing, and a bit more creative than a series, although both have their pros and cons.
One absolutely definite pro with this book has got to be how Campbell writes. I was already impressed with the first book of hers I read, but this one really sealed the deal for me. Not only was this book even more evocative in its language and descriptions, but we get to the crime much earlier on in the book (which was a drawback for me with that other novel). This means we can get right to trying to figure out who done it, and why. This is where the other big pro comes in – Campbell’s (increased) ability to know how to build the suspense. Obviously, this means that we need quite a few red herrings, and some twists to go with them, and Campbell certainly gives us much of both of these. That said, there was one twist that I guessed long before it was revealed, but at one point Campbell actually had me doubting my own initial instincts on that bit, which slightly waylaid my ability to give myself full credit for figuring it out before the characters.
Regarding the characters themselves, while I thought the main character was going to be Iris – the victim’s mother – she does fall by the wayside fairly early in the novel. This is partly because she is literally taken away by her aunt once the kidnapping has been discovered. This puts Alan Charnwood – the man Iris has fallen in love with – into the limelight for the majority of the novel. Interestingly enough, because Alan hasn’t been in Iris’s life for very long, and because she’s still married, he knows very little about the family, and that makes him susceptible to being deceived by any and all of them at one point or another (well, not Iris, but still). I already mentioned the aunt, who is the wealthy controlling one, and there’s also Iris’s long-estranged husband, Marcel, who Iris was about to divorce before their mutual daughter disappeared. The family dynamics are pretty complicated, and that only helps with the plot development. There are also a few other minor characters, including Tommy, a journalist friend of Alan’s, who helps with finding out the truth. This duo is what the British would call “chalk and cheese” because they’re unlikely friends, and yet, they work well together, and make a likeable pair.
Overall, I did very much enjoy reading this novel, and I’m truly glad that Dean Street Press is bringing back her works; Campbell has been overshadowed by bigger British crime fiction authors for far too long, if you ask me. While these two don’t have the charm and wit of a Christie mystery, they are perfectly plotted, beautifully written, and highly intelligent. Granted, since these aren’t in a series of novels, we don’t get as emotionally attached to the protagonists as we could (my only con for this book), but that doesn’t mean they aren’t good reads, because they surely are. I have no reason not to recommend this book warmly, with a very respectable four and a half stars out of five!
Originally released in 1932, Dean Street Press re-released “The Click of the Gate” by Alice Campbell on June 2, 2022. This book is available (via the following affiliate links) from Amazon, Foyles, The Book Depository UK and Book Depository US (both with free worldwide delivery), Waterstones, WHSmith, Wordery UK and Wordery US, Kobo US (eBooks and audiobooks), the website eBooks.com, Booksamillion.com, iTunes (iBooks and audiobooks), new or used from Alibris, used from Better World Books (promoting libraries and world literary), as well as from as well as from Bookshop.org and UK.Bookshop (to support independent bookshops, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic) or an IndieBound store near you. I would like to thank the publishers for inviting me to read the ARC of this novel.