Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Head of a Traveler by Nicholas Blake

Just suppose that a future Poet Laureate of England should write a mystery novel which features a notable English poet. This is what you have in the book Head of a Traveler. Nicholas Blake is the pen name of Cecil Day-Lewis who became Poet Laureate in 1968. He wrote this mystery novel in 1949.

Nigel Strangeways, the detective, was taken to meet established English poet, Robert Seaton, at his home, Plash Meadow, in the village of Hinton Lacey. Plash Meadow was a beautiful Queen Anne house set on beautiful grounds. Nigel met Robert and his second wife Janet whose name was Lacey before her marriage. Plash Meadow had originally been the home of the Laceys before Robert Seaton's father had purchased it. Plash Meadow had originally been the inheritance of Oswald Lacey, Robert's older brother, but it was now Robert's because Oswald had committed suicide 10 years before by drowning himself, but his body had never been recovered.

 Robert had two children by his first wife living at Plash Meadow. There was his son Lionel who had been a commando during the war, and Vanessa who was much younger and was an active participant in the Girl Guides. Also living with Robert, was Finney Black who was a dwarf with limited mental abilities who had been taken in by the Seaton's. Also living on the Seaton's property were a mediocre artist and his attractive daughter, Mara.

The quiet of the village and the house was disrupted two months later when a headless body was discovered in the Thames near the home of the Seatons. Superintendent Blount found out that Nigel knew the Seaton family and suggested that Nigel do a little polite snooping in the neighborhood of the crime. I will not provide any spoilers here by telling more about the crime and the investigation.

Nigel felt that Robert Seaton had not produced any important poetry in the last ten years although Robert did not admit to writer's block. It is on this subject, that Day-Lewis writes some interesting commentary on the poet's desire to write, and on the importance of poetry in the poet's life. It could be at this time, that Day-Lewis was also having difficulty in writing his own poetry.

I have read this book for the 2018 Golden Just the Facts, Ma'am challenge. In my detective notebook, it is in the category of What in the subcategory of Pseudonymous Author








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