J.F. Straker – A Coil of Rope (1962)

Straker was very prolific around this time . A Coil of Rope shifts away from
the village settings of Goodbye, Aunt Charlotte and Murder for Miss Emily
and instead introduces another classic GA situation – the isolated group of
suspects. In this case the protagonists David, a rookie journalist, and his
would-be girlfriend Susan, set out to investigate a new ‘peace cult’ which
has been established on a remote island by a Baron Grevas. As they arrive at
the island they spot a dead body in the water – it is Jan one of the cult
members who was supposed to have drowned some days earlier; it does not take
them long to deduce that he was in fact murdered.

Thus a classic scenario is established – 11 suspects cut off from the world.
Spice is added to this mixture by the fact that the 11 are a deliberately
widely varied group, as it is part of Grevas’s philosophy that people need
to learn to love one another whatever their background. So we have a West
Indian woman and a woman from the Deep South, a Scottish landowner and a
cockney ex-docker and so on. Not surprisingly Straker is able to concoct a
number of motives from this situation, and then more mysterious events and
accidents start to occur.

My feeling about this book, as with Goodbye, Aunt Charlotte is that it
should be better than it is, given the promising situation and the
possibilities presented. It remains highly readable and is another
fascinating look at the mores of the period. Again it feels like a very
distant world today (2007), as distant in its way as the classic thirties GA
world, but one feels this should not be true.

There is once again a romantic sub-plot but this is never given undue
prominence and indeed never reaches a resolution. Readable, competent,
interesting, but in the last analysis there is again some vital ingredient
lacking.

(May 2007)

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