#386: Spoiler Warning – Coming in July: Fog of Doubt, a.k.a. London Particular (1952) by Christianna Brand

Fog of Doubt London Particular

It’s been a few weeks since Aidan and I examined John Rhode’s impossible crime novel Invisible Weapons (1938) in full spoiler style, and now the time is ripe to pick another piece of classic detective fiction and let you know another spoilerful dissection is due.

The astute among you will be in no way surprised that the next title in my ongoing spoiler-heavy series will be Fog of Doubt, a.k.a. London Particular (1952) by the superbly talented borderline Crime Queen — held back, perhaps, by her relative sparsity of output in the genre — Christianna Brand.

This time, however, I’m going to be doing things differently.

In contravention of the usual format, wherein I have been very fortunate to engage in discussion with my exceptionally knowledgable and entertaining fellow GAD bloggers, I shall be doing this one tout seul.  Before you seek to traduce my motives here as an escalation of my ego-driven ways, it’s actually far simpler than that: I’m trying to keep the word-count to a readable level on account of the format this Spoiler Warning will take.  And I’m going to tell you what that format is now so that, if you have not read this and wish to play along at home, you have the chance of doing the same thing.

four-little-chow-chow-puppies-portrait-waldek-dabrowski

“Get on with it, then!”

What I shall be doing in this case is putting the book aside at the end of every chapter and writing my thoughts, suspicions, and general reflections on the plot and characters.  Therefore, since Fog of Doubt has 18 chapters, the post will be composed of 18 mini essays of approximately 200 words each.  Obviously I shall not attempt to salve my querulous, grossly-bloated ego by correcting any errors — that’s at least half the fun — as at least part of my intention here is also to capture the evolution of the reader’s experience over the course of this type of novel.  Does that sound pretentious?  Ah, well…

Brand has wrong-footed me three times out of four — though, in spite of what the majority says, I still question how fair-play Green for Danger actually is — so how will I do this time?  Tune in this July to find out!  But obviously come back in the meantime, too.  I’m a fragile soul, and need the validation of views on my blog.

~

The following reviews will give you some idea of what to expect from this one if you’ve not read it:

Ben @ The Green Capsule: By the end of the story, you’ll feel such a bond with each character and the close knit community they make up, that any potential resolution is devastating. Oh, and this one pays off for sure. In a similar sense to Ellery Queen’s The French Powder Mystery, the payout occurs very very late in the story. This time, it’s not who committed the murder – that you’ll have figured out several pages earlier. The Fog of Doubt leaves you astounded by the ‘how’ – a clue waved so openly in your face for so long that I reject the idea of a reader who doesn’t walk away feeling like an idiot. Sure, I clued into it about two pages early, but that didn’t mask the sting at all.

Nick Fuller @ The Grandest Game in the World: The setting for the first half is a comfortable upper middle-class (professional) household in London suburbia on a night of dense fog (hence the Dickensian title). Murder is done, and Cockrill, a friend of the family, is called in, just as two arrests are carried out. The whole culminates in a glorious courtroom drama, a brilliant mixture of drama and fair-play clueing, and a nicely-managed contrast between the pleased excitement of the public, and the tension of the sympathetic suspects—whom we have come to view as our personal friends. Brand plays devilishly fair with the clues, and the least likely suspect is as surprising as he should be. As good as Carr or Christie.

See you in July with my own conclusions…!

~

Previous Spoiler Warnings on The Invisible Event:

1. The Peacock Feather Murders (1937) by Carter Dickson [w’ Puzzle Doctor @ In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel]

2. Death on the Nile (1937) by Agatha Christie vs. He Who Whispers (1946) by John Dickson Carr [w’ Brad @ AhSweetMysteryBlog]

3. Rim of the Pit (1944) by Hake Talbot [w’ Dan @ The Reader is Warned]

4. And Be a Villain (1948) by Rex Stout [w’ Noah @ Noah’s Archives]

5. The Problem of the Wire Cage (1939) by John Dickson Carr [w’ Ben @ The Green Capsule]

6. Invisible Weapons (1938) by John Rhode [w’ Aidan @ Mysteries Ahoy!]

98 thoughts on “#386: Spoiler Warning – Coming in July: Fog of Doubt, a.k.a. London Particular (1952) by Christianna Brand

    • Haha, well I’ve been braggin about Brand’s wonderfully clever clewing elsewhere for a number of years now, so hopefully my going in with that expectation will spoil nothing. We shall see, I suppose.

      • I mean she literally “spoiled” it.

        Dont read what she said about her clueing. She tells you exactly what you should look for and tips the game. It is clever though.

        On the other hand, I don’t rank it as high as Green for Danger and Tour de Force, but getting it kind of spoiled may have affected it. Didn’t think the characters were nearly as good,

        • Increasingly I find myself reluctant to read reviewa or comments or anything about books I’ve not yet read because of how casually people can’t help but spoil stuff, even with “oh my god, the twist at the end is amazing…” enthusiasm that — thank-you — now tells me there’s a twist at the end. So I am grateful for you making it explicitly clear that I shouldn’t read Brand’s own comments, because I could almost see myself believeing I’d be safe there as no-one would be so arrogant/thoughtless to ruin their own book in advance…and it turns out I’d be wrong! Much appreciated.

          • Yes, I am with you on reading reviews with caution. Even some of the spoiler-free reviews tip me in the right direction by saying things along the lines of: “Christie did this better” or “the culprit is obvious” or “narrative feature XYZ allows for a clever twist”.

            • Yeah, I think most people in writing a review intend to be as unspoiling as possible, but the difficulty comes in trying to be specific wihtout being too specific…and it’s a difficult line to walk. It’s something I spend a lot of time thinking about given that solidly 90% of my output here is exactly that, and I’m doubtless as guilty of giving stuff away as the next reviewer. The only option is to not do it at all, I suppose, and that appeals even less.

          • Brand had a great talent and as a genre historian I’m grateful that she was something of a gossip and quite garrulous, but she was rather vain too and was quite capable of inadvertently “spoiling” her own book by boasting, in overmuch detail, about how clever she was with the clueing. This was done in her introduction to the hardback Mysterious Press reprinting of Fog of Doubt, no less. With no spoiler warning!

  1. I’m looking forward to the review – and for once (or perhaps twice?) I’m ahead of the game. I read it a few years ago, and so enjoyed it – but I shan’t say whether I spotted the solution. As even that kind of comment I think can be a spoiler to an astute reader. 😼

    It would be good to have a longer discussion of “Green for Danger” another time, as I don’t recall it being somewhat light on clues. Then again, I was one of those who voted for it… 😅

    PS Thanks for reviving the photo of the contrapuntally-aligned chow chow puppies. 😬

    • Green for Danger is indeed due for a longer discussion. It may well be the most fairly clued detective novel ever. Well, maybe slight hyperbole there. But really, it is. It struck me after reading the book when I watched the classic film version. You pretty much watch the killer’s actions playing out the entire time – you just have no way of realizing it. There’s little fat in that sense. Every passage is cleverly constructed to show the scheme unfolding before your eyes, while lulling you into thinking you’re watching mundane things.

      • In my memory of GfD – and I really have to re-read it! – I agree with you soooo much, Ben. Evidence of this is that when I finished it and then went back and re-read certain early sections, I got chills.

        • Okay, dammit, I shall reread Green foe Danger with a more open mind. At some point. Probably in 2020. My TBR should be under control by then.

      • Yeah, everyone says so and therefore I must bow to their greater experience…but that is very much not my memory of that book. But, hey, I’d be delighted to be wrong!

        • Glad everyone thinks we need a review of “Green for Danger”. To give credit where it’s due, this was probably my first GAD novel outside of Christie. I was re-reading some of her renown works twice or thrice – until I decided to pick up something else. And reading “Green for Danger” convinced me that there were great mystery puzzles outside of Christie’s oeuvre. There was no turning back after that…

          But if you give a bad review of “Green for Danger”, please remember to throw in multiple photos of apricot chow chow puppies to ameliorate my utter disappointment.

      • The movie is most certainly the best fair play detective movie ever filmed. It’s close to the ingenuity of THE LAST OF SHEILA, but it’s better done and more elegant because it’s done so matter-of-factly and doesn’t rely on wordplay and gimmicks as does …SHEILA. While watching GREEN FOR DNAGER you have no real idea that the clues are being presented to you as the story unfolds. Truly brilliant! Those who have never seen it need to pay very close attention to the first ten minutes more than anything else in the movie. But I guarantee most will moss the clues there anyway.

        • I love the movie for all the things you say. Yes, there are moments of horror – the second murder is beautifully filmed – but the people all start out like real people in real situations and the tension escalates as Inspector Cockrill investigates.

          Since you, Ben and I are such big fans of this, I’d love to work out a major discussion of it over at my place one of these days. Spoilers galore and a deep appreciation of how this one works.

          • I agree, the book is a beauty and the film does it justice and then some. Of course some of that is down to Alastair Sim, a man who quite honestly would make a reading of the telephone directory fascinating. I now cannot read a Brand Inspector Cockrill story without an image of Sim in my mind.

  2. There’s no way I can wait until July for your thoughts on this one! I want them now! I do hope that you enjoy this one and I’m curious to see how your thoughts progress over the course of the book. I can imagine how really capturing your thoughts could lead one to over-think things.

    • I’m interested to see how writing down thoughts after each chapter changes my own appraisal of what I experience. We all have a certain amount of filtering and weighing going on as we read, and I’m fascinated to see how the justifcations and realisations change, given that I tend to forget most of the rollercoaster once I’m off the ride and looking around for the next one.

      Hopefully my metaphors will be better than that in July. I shall start practising.

  3. Speaking of spoilers, Nicks is is kind of spoilery, isn’t it? Maybe Bens too, though he’s quite right.

    Green for Danger is one of the few books outside of Christie where I felt the real Oomph! Of surprise. And it is fairly clued. Misdirection of the highest order.

    • They might be a little, but I figured they’re possibly vague enough that it might not hurt. And I managed to forget what they said as soon as I read them, so I think I’m okay (it’s a skill I have, only half paying attention sometimes so that information doesn’t really permeate — doesn’t always work, but definitely makes me lousy at remembering names…) 🙂

  4. Isn’t this the one where they keep trying people successively for the crime? Or was that Suddenly at His Residence? I thought the latter a disappointment. I think one that had trials as well.

    • No idea, not read this yet. Doesn’t sound like SaHR, though, as I don’t remember tirals in that. But then see my earlier post about how shonky my memory can be.

  5. The wait for July will now be excruciating since I now have both this post and a trip abroad to wait for 😔.
    I love FoD and your idea for the post sounds so divine that I have to follow along with you!

    • Many thanks, I’m pretty excited myself. It sprang out of the notion that I had the feeling I’d solved a mystery at the end of the first chapter — and come the end it turned out I was correct — and I thought discussing the various attempts at red herring-ing could be fun…especially had it turned out that I hadn’t solved it at the end of the first chapter and had completely misinterpreted those non-red herrings. In a way, that’s the outcome we really want, right?

      • It really is the outcome we all want.I feel that mystery readers like us,enjoy being lead on and on and on until our final hypothesis is so far gone from the actual solution that we can’t help but be shocked.
        That’s why I love GAD fiction. Modern crime fiction just can’t weave the tangled web of clues and red herrings and characters without there being a stumble along the way (usually involving the detectives long lost love being kidnapped and held for ransom by a criminal orginization while said detective constantly angsts over their life and said love).
        Books like Death of Jezebel and The White Priory Murders and After the Funeral where everything just fits together at the conclusion are prime examples of amazing forehead slapping moments.They are books where being lead along was worth it,just worth it for that final revelation.
        I solved Fog of Doubt,but Brand made me question my solution with every chapter and almost nearly caused me to throw aside my solution.The last line of the novel will be something you will want to read again and again and again because of just how beautiful and shocking it is.
        Anyway,I presume your doing this post with Dan from The Reader is Warned? I recall him mentioning he had a copy of London Particular waiting to be read somewhere.

        • Nah, I’m doing this one on my own. Dan and I have another episode of The Men Who Explain Miracles due in June, but no other plans at present to collaborate on anything other than the podcast. We see enough of each other as it is.

          Modern crime fiction just can’t weave the tangled web of clues and red herrings and characters without there being a stumble along the way (usually involving the detectives long lost love being kidnapped and held for ransom by a criminal orginization while said detective constantly angsts over their life and said love).

          This sounds so much like the 1926 book I’m currently reading, it’s uncanny… 🙂

          • I’m guessing your talking about the Freeman Will Crofts novel shown in the next review box.
            I’ve never read a Freeman Will Crofts novel and if I do I’d like to start with Sudden Death.But that book seems to only be available in a extraordinarily rare and expensive paperback edition which would cost a arm and a leg to buy.
            Combine that with the fact that Crofts has such a bad reputation in the mystery community and I don’t think I’ll be approaching him soon.
            Do you have any other recommendations for a Crofts book though? One that has a mystery driven plot that doesn’t drive you to sleep or has a absurd price.

            • If I’m completely frank with you, it infuriates me now that I spent so long believing the “Crofts is a dullard” crowd without actually checking him out myself. I’ve read six books by him now and really enjoyed all of them, and if I’d been quicker to pick him up, well, maybe I wouldn’t have liked him back then, but if I had I’d’ve been able to get those House of Stratus reprints (his whole catalogue! In the early 2000s! Imagine!) before they took on the exorbitant aspect they now have.

              I was actually fortunate enough to track down Sudden Death for very sensible money, back when my interest was in the impossible crime aspect rather than Crofts for Crofts’ sake. I’ve not read it — all in good time, in approximate chronology — but I’m very much looking forward to it. In the meantime, the recently-reissued The Sea Mystery (1928) is reasonably priced, readily available, and a joy of detection and mystery plotting.

              Crofts is wonderful, I tell ya, dive in!

            • I don’t know that Crofts has such a bad reputation these days. when I published Masters of the Humdrum Mystery in 2012 I was defending him from the Julian Symons denigration from 1972, which ostensible GA authorities like PD James and Lucy Worsley took to heart, but I think most of the fandom world hadn’t actually read him. I bought all the House of Stratus editions, but that series went oop quickly. My recommendations for Crofts would be Inspector French and the Starvel Tragedy, The Sea Mystery, Sir John Magill’s Last Journey, Mystery in the Channel, The Hog’s Back Mystery, Mystery on Southhampton Water, Crime at Guildford, The Loss of the Jane Vosper and Enemy Unseen. My thesis was his later books became flawed by his moral schemata in later works and that the earliest books are flawed with Victorian melodrama, but take that or leave it as you please.

              I think some others people might like are Death on the Way and Found Floating, which is more Christie-like, though it has a lover actually named Runciman Jellicoe and a heroine who says, “Oh! Runciman!” and things like that. Sudden Death is a country house mystery and melodrama and maybe I was too hard on it, but it would have been better had Christie written it. I thought the second murder, though locked room, was disappointing too. But I’m looking back and wondering whther I was a bit hard on some of the titles, but then I was trying to make the case that Crofts was worth reading *at all*.

            • Runciman Jellicoe! Amazing!

              If you wanna sell any of those House of Stratus editions, btw, do get in touch 🙂

  6. Read this one ages ago so will have to see if I can get around to a re-read, as can’t remember very much about it at all. The format of the upcoming post sounds cool too. Due to my technical ignorance I can’t show you a picture of my sister’s chows, as the youngest (Bilbo) has a definite Poirot moustache going on. Though unfortunately he does not have Poirot’s brains, (which I think went to Merry the oldest Chow). If the Agatha Christie estate ever decide to do a chow chow adaptation of a Poirot tale then these guys are ready!

  7. Brilliant choice of book for this! Man, I love the way your mind thinks . . .

    But I also agree with Curt – and this is based on my dim recollection when I read it long ago – that the problem for me with the book was that the characters didn’t grab me like they do in other Brand novels.

    I would be happy to host a long discussion of GfD after I’ve located and re-read it. I won’t get it as an e-book; my collection of “Brand For Reals” is too precious to me.

    • Perhaps at some point in the future I’ll do a more immersive version: post my thoughts after each chapter, with the character names removed, but not tell you what the book is in advance*. Quite what that would achieve I’m not sure, but it would be fun.

      * — upon reflection, this might be the single worst idea anyone has ever had on the internet.

    • Here’s hoping. If I call it in chapter one and then simply go “Yup, I’m definitely right” 16 times on the way to begin proved correct, it may not live up to my intentions 🙂

  8. I have not read anything by brand either. Will be fun to start with this in July and play alongside you!

    • Superb! I know the book isn’t exactly recently published, and so might not be readily available, but it’s something a lot of people have read and have strong (largely positive, as far as I’m aware) opinions on. It being so widely read is a bonus in being able to talk about it, but also reduces the chances for people to play along; so I’m delighted youll be able to match me in your reading of this one. It’ll be interesting to see if we come to the same conclusions at the same times.

  9. Heh, I remember when Rich of Complete Disregard for Spoilers did this. I tried doing it myself a few times for The House That Kills and Appointment with Death but you’d be shocked at how it slows down your reading speed. Combine that with my slow reading speed leading me to read in large chunks and well. Best of skill to ya man. 😛

    • Aww, man, and there I was thinking I’d hit on something original. Well, okay, not original, but at least possibly perhaps a bit new. Dammit! 😀

      And, you’re not wrong — it did occur to me that remembering to put the book down after every chapter might be too much for me to remember, given my tendency to race ahead. So we shall see if one of the chapter essyas is me going “Uh, yeah, so I forgot to pay attention here…who’s this guy?”

  10. New or not, it’s an excellent idea. It makes the reading experience even more interactive and potentially more involving (or frustrating). Look forward to your take on it. And to more dog puns.

  11. Since this is not a new idea, JJ, I think I want to give it a try. I won’t do it before you, but I thought late July might work before I get all het up over school.

    Naturally, I was thinking something by Carter Dickson since there are quite a few I haven’t read. Do you think any of the following titles might work:

    The Skeleton in the Clock
    The Curse of the Bronze Lamp
    Death in Five Boxes
    Nine – and Death Makes Ten

    • I’ve only read Five Boxes of those, and I’m not sure that’d be a great one. The others…maybe someone else can help you with those…

    • The Curse of the Bronze Lamp was a decent book with a nice little puzzle which wouldn’t be the best for this idea imo.
      I’ll be getting NDMT and TSC in a day or two and I’ll be reading SC first; so expect me to have some thoughts on it in a few days.
      I agree with what JJ said about DFB.I really wouldn’t work considering a few plot points in the story.
      I think I’ll also use this idea,if you don’t mind.
      I’ll have a blog by July and I’m considering Calamity Town or The Murderer is a Fox as the book.

        • I just need a new laptop and a name- which is something that I’m having trouble picking 😛
          Which option sounds better in your opinion?
          Suddenly at his Residence
          He Who Whispers
          After the Funeral
          I’m trying to name it after a book by one of my three favorite authors and these are the narrowed down options. All of them sound great to me and I just can’t make up my mind about it.

          • If you haven’t read After the Funeral yet, Bekir, I would LOVE to see how you get through the process on this one. It’s not a shocker like Roger Ackroyd, just a well-plotted, delightful mystery. That’s the title that would get my vote! 🙂

            • After the Funeral is my 2nd favorite Christie (Five Little Pigs is my favorite) and one of her best works.
              Without that special thing in the beginning,it still would be a amazing mystery.
              But the thing in the beginning is so brash and wonderful that it becomes a instant classic.Combine that with a lovely little clue perfectly hidden near th end and you have a book that I completely adore and admire.
              I do need to reread It as I only read it for the first time a year ago and I’ve forgotten most of the plot.

            • It’s my favorite Christie for all the reasons you say. But I want to read something I DON’T know the solution to in order to show off my brilliance (yeah, right!) I picked Carter Dickson because I own a lot that I haven’t read yet. But I’m open to other suggestions. I just prefer an author who twists and turns frequently like Carr and Christie and Brand do.

            • Have you read Case for Three Detectives?
              I think it would be a perfect book for a read along considering its parody of detective stories and it’s very enjoyable premise and solution.
              Also,side note but what Ngaio Marsh books would you recommend a first time reader?Im thinking of getting one or two and I’d like to know what books are good to start with.

            • I enjoyed Overture to Death, and I think Atists in Crime was good (except I only remember the killer). Marsh’s prose is good, but her books always bog down at the investigation.

              I haven’t read Case for Three Detectives yet. One of these days.

          • I had such a difficult time naming my own blog that I’m not really the best person to consult on names. Of those three, I think I prefer AtF, but I can’t justify it beyond simply liking it as a title…

            • After the Funeral is when a lot of investigations take place? I think though I prefer Suddenly at His Residence for a blog title. But don’t worry about it too much. If I’d waited for a good blog name, I still wouldn’t have one.

      • I don’t think I would choose either of those Queen titles, Bekir. Neither one is puzzle oriented enough to work in my opinion. A better title would be There Was an Old Woman or Double, Double.

        What about The White Priory Murders for me? My only concern is that everyone says it drags in the middle.

        • Brad, I’d say why not give White Priory a go. Yes, it does have a weaker mid section but I don’t think it gets as fatally bogged down as is often claimed and there are some nice little character sketches to (at least partially) compensate.

          • I think the distraction around the central impossibility would be very interesting to deconstruct — it’s such a busy book, that anyone might easily see right through the trick simply by ignoring the right things (as, indeed, the best impossibilities should be). It’s one of the reasons I admire that trick so much, even if the book was hard work on account of the dialed-up nature of it (ugh, those end of chapter cliff-hangers get exhausting after a while…).

    • Don’t do it for CURSE OF THE BRONZE LAMP, Brad. You’ll be kicking yourself when you get to the end because you might feel that you wasted a lot of effort over what amounts to a big anticlimax. But I’d try it for NINE AND DEATH MAKES TEN (one I actually figured out most of the solution to prior to the end) or DEATH IN FIVE BOXES. I don’t remember a thing about SKELETON IN THE CLOCK because I read it back in my high school days. I only remember it was the first Dell Mapback I ever purchased in a used bookstore.

      • John, I went ahead and ordered The Red Widow Murders, and I have both of the other titles you suggested. Let’s see how this format works for me; I might do it regularly!! 🙂

  12. The White Priory Murders has a great setup and one of the best solutions to a impossible crime ever.But it does drag a lot in the middle and when I read it,it became almost a chore to read. But the end makes up for all the slogging.The solution is so simple and beautiful that you can’t help feel amazed and stupid at the same time.I don’t think it would work for the read along,simply because of the middle.It would be much better to just read it separately instead.I think The Red Widow Murders would work better as a Carter Dickson book to read for this.
    My library has a program where you can borrow ebooks from them for a month before returning them.I don’t have a copy of Double,Double or There was An Old Woman but my library does have a ebook of DD.Ill borrow it and try it out as the plot does sound interesting.My only concern is that I might have toe read all the other Wrightsville novels before it-but I haven’t read any of them at all.

    • Unfortunately, Red Widow Murders is one I don’t have . . . yet!

      Double, Double is a little separate from the other Wrightsville novels. There will be people mentioned who you won’t know, but the tone is a bit lighter and it is, in all honesty, a “lesser” mystery than the other three. But it is more of a puzzle book than the others are.

      • Red Widow Murders would be a great one for this sort of post, though. That book shifts in the blink of an eye and it’d be hilarious watching someone trying to figure out what the hell was happening.

        • Okay, it gave me an excuse: i just bought a used copy of TRWM. I can do this at my leisure and publish right after yours. (I might publicize ahead of time, though! Maybe you can get EVERYONE to do it, JJ – that’s the sort of influence you have around here!)

    • No idea, I’m afraid. Unlikely I’ll do it before July, as the post itself won’t require as much editing as these things normally do. I’m just typing up what I think and not going back to edit, so it should be a pretty swift undertaking. I shall tweet about it when I begin, let’s say? That way, if someone is willing to sit and watch my Twitter feed they’ll at least get some heads-up (I’m still not entirely sure anyone reads my tweets…or my blog, come to that!).

      • No one reads your blog? Have you invented all these commenters and you’re just having entertaining conversations with your other personalities? Keep it up. I read it and I’m not a figment of your imagination as far as I am aware.

  13. Pingback: READ-ALONG WITH BRADLEY! The Red Widow Murders: Part One | ahsweetmysteryblog

  14. Pingback: Maigret & JJ’s Chapter-by-Chapter Idea | ravenscroftcloud

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