Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Twist in the Tale: In the Fog


"As I felt my way along the wall, I encountered other men who were coming from the opposite direction, and each time when we hailed each other I stepped away from the wall to make room for them to pass. But the third time I did this, when I reached out my hand, the wall had disappeared, and the further I moved to find it the further I seemed to be sinking into space. I had the unpleasant conviction that at any moment I might step over a precipice. Since I had set out I had heard no traffic in the street, and now, although I listened some minutes, I could only distinguish the occasional footfalls of pedestrians. Several times I called aloud, and once a jocular gentleman answered me, but only to ask me where I thought he was, and then even he was swallowed up in the silence. Just above me I could make out a jet of gas which I guessed came from a street lamp, and I moved over to that, and, while I tried to recover my bearings, kept my hand on the iron post. Except for this flicker of gas, no larger than the tip of my finger, I could distinguish nothing about me. For the rest, the mist hung between me and the world like a damp and heavy blanket….



Winter nights, I am convinced, are meant for the reading of mysteries. The sheer silence, the utter desolation, and the deepening darkness all add up to the delight of being snuggled up in a razai with the book in one hand and a hot cup of tea in the other.

I remember reading The Woman in White a couple of years ago. The mist swirled in outside the window, Walter Hartright met Anne Catherick and I shivered in excitement.

So while scouting round for a vintage mystery to read, I simply had to pick up a title that read: In the Fog. And am I glad that this has become my first read of the year. Written by War correspondent and writer, Richard Harding Davis, this turn of the century novella, recounts the meeting of five people in an elitist club on the night after the great fog of London in 1897. One narrates the story of getting lost in the fog and ending up in a house containing two dead bodies – one that of a famous explorer who had but recently returned from his travels and the other that of an exotic Russian adventuress. The story is taken up further by the other members as the night progresses and the needle of suspicion moves from one person to another.

Are they telling the truth? Who is the murderer? Who is lying and who is not? And what about the notes being brought in by the waiter? Harding creates a thrilling atmospheric puzzle that keeps one enthralled.

Reading the book is stepping into another era: Explorers are still exploring the farthest corners of the globe rather than the outer reaches of space; London is lit by gas-lamps rather than neon lights; people travel by horse-driven cabs rather than fuel guzzling automobiles; and Russia still has a czar!

First Line: The Grill is the club most difficult of access in the world.

Year of Publication: 1901

Author: Richard Harding Davis 

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Second hand copies of In the Fog are available on the net. It can also be downloaded for free from many sites. I downloaded it from here:
http://freeread.com.au/ebooks/c00078.txt 

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Submitted for the Vintage Mystery and A - Z Reading Challenge. Have now covered the letter I.





4 comments:

  1. This sounds truly interesting, Neer. I've never heard of the writer or the book. But I'm finding out lately that there are many MANY books and authors I am ignorant of. And I thought I knew tons about mysteries. HA! And yes, winter nights are good for a mystery or two.

    But then, I also read mysteries all summer long as well. :)

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  2. Hi Yvette

    I hadn't heard of the author or the book either. Thanks to Bev, the challenge has made me aware of many authors and books. And what else can a cozie lover ask for? :)

    Do read this book. I've a weakness for tales told round a crackling fire and the round-robin style is truly engrossing.

    And yes, though it adds to the atmosphere, winter nights are not a prerequisite for the reading of mysteries. Lazy summer afternoons are wonderful too. :)

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  3. Hi! Thanks for the visit to my blog! Sorry it took me so long to get back to you. I've been having a rather hard time lately.

    Nice review of In the Fog. I love to read mysteries when it's all cloudy and stormy outside. :-)

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    Replies
    1. Hi

      I totally understand as I am also hard-pressed for time nowadays.

      Stormy weather does make one reach for a mystery, isn't it? I read Death Knocks Three Times recently even as the world outside was being washed away. It was terrific, the lightening, the clap of thunder, all added an edge to the reading.

      Thanks for visiting. Hope you come often.

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