Year First Published (UK) – 1970
Inspector – Sergeant Cribb
First Line – ‘The 12.05am trundled of Highbury and Islington station and along the line.’
Denouement – The Islington Green Agricultural Hall
This went on my TBR list when I heard Lovesey talk at The Havant Literary Festival in 2014. I know, a while ago and I really should have read it sooner. It’s a classic and the first book Lovesey ever wrote. It won him a competition price of £1000 and launched his career.
An excellent piece of historical crime fiction, the amount of research Lovesey has put into this book is laudable in itself.
We join the journalists, reporting on the soon-to-start wobble or pedestrian race, on the station platform as they descend from the train and make their way to the Islington Green Agricultural Hall. We are swept along with them surrounded by the streets of Victorian London and arrive at the hall in time for introductions.
The wobble is a 500 mile race taking place over six days and the price is a very handsome £500. The case is murder, of course and not too far into the race one of the favourites is struck down dead, but was it tetanus or Strychnine?
Sergeant Cribb and his team are called and he sets about investigating.
All the plot points are entirely plausible and the reader can learn a lot about Victorian England from this book and indeed, about the pedestrian races or wobbles that took place at the time. There’s a hilarious love scene in the book (after listening to Peter Lovesey talk at the festival, I think I’m safe in the assumption that it is meant to be funny), where a Victorian lady is disrobed and the layers and layers of crinoline and corsetry are described.
If you like historical fiction with a tongue in cheek approach to the Victorians, murder, mystery and intrigue then make sure you wobble off with this one.
Have you read any of Peter Lovesey’s work? What did you think, I’d love to hear. Don’t forget to leave you comments below.