Michael Gilbert – The Empty House (1978)


Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Broken Object
Date Finished: January 7, 2017
TBR #3
Follow the Clues step #3: from Empty to Empty.
Reporter Challenge: Set in England

A scientist’s car is thought to have crashed over a seaside cliff in Dover, leading to his death, but young and very persistent insurance adjuster Peter Manciple is assigned to investigate the death prior to payment of his somewhat oddly written policy. The scientist had written an ill-advised editorial against Israel, leading to complications in his career, and the involvement by various governments. Manciple becomes involved with various characters around Exeter and finds more to this insurance case than originally suspected.

Some have described this as a quiet thriller, and that is somewhat apt as, despite a few scenes of action, there are periods of meandering around the countryside. Gilbert’s writing is well done and the setting is well described. Unfortunately, the characters are somewhat disappointing. Almost all are hiding some secrets, but those are fairly easily guessed. The Manciple charachter, though somewhat milquetoast, has a tenaciousness that pulls him through this affair and is the most notable item of this mystery. He sadly does not seem to be a continuing character in Gilbert’s work. The mystery, however, dissolves into Israeli vs. Palestinian vs. English spies and loses its focus, with it being not very clear why all are after our scientist. Either fully spy or fully mystery would have served this premise better.

As for the cover scavenger hunt, we’ll go with broken object, while we continue the Empty theme from The Empty Trap.



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