Do you find yourself lulled into an erudite hebetude by too many stories blethering on instead of simply getting down to the plot and relevant incidents? Well, Max Afford’s fifth novel runs to 116 pages and probably doesn’t contain a single one that does not in some way contribute to the interpretations or solutions of the central conundrums. A sea-faring mystery in the Death on the Nile (1937) school, a small group of characters are gathered on a liner heading out from Sydney, Australia to some islands because…reasons…when mysterious phone calls, mysterious passengers, mysterious relationships, and mysterious pasts all converge for a cavalcade of enigmas wrapped in queries and shrouded in deepest sinisterlyness.
You sort of get the impression Afford was working to a deadline, because he really doesn’t hang about, but this in no way means he writes cheaply. A very experienced dramatist for radio, he has an eye for quick character beats and trenchant description that shows his class:
He was old. That was their first impression. Old and yellow and lined. And thin to the point of obscenity, shrunken in his dark, rumpled clothes like a chrysalid prematurely dead in its cocoon.