Death at Crane's Court (cover) Eilís Dillon
Death at Crane's Court

Life seems to have ended for George Arrow. Still in his mid-thirties, he discovers that he is afflicted with a heart ailment that will make him an invalid for the rest of his life. So he forsakes his native Dublin and moves to a remote residential hotel-spa on the Irish coast, and there prepares to finish out his days in quiet and relative solitude.

Then one evening the owner is found murdered in his room. The events that follow are hectic and ultimately horrifying, and they put Arrow's nerves to so extreme a test that several observers - the local police included - begin to wonder if there isn't something more than meets the eye in George's story of heart disease.

Versione italiana del 1954 Nuova versione italiana

WHAT THE REVIEWERS SAID:

"Cosy, chatty, Irish whodunnit staged in a hotel-sanatorium near Galway. A new proprietor, a particularly revolting spivvish sadist, is stabbed soon after interfering with old ladies' liberties." (Maurice Richardson, The Observer)

"Absorbing... Exciting without being horrible... Set against a County Galway background of such seductive peace as to make one wish forthwith to pack one's bags and take the next train to the West." (Sunday Independent)

"[An] unusual thriller . . . Miss Dillon's colourful descriptions of the scene of the crime are no less exciting than the drama itself. Full marks for a lively, gripping story." Manchester Evening News

"An excellent job ... highly attractive and readable" (New York Times Book Review)

"Pleasantly exciting" (Saturday Review)

"A three-star find for those who like their crime agreeable, not tough; and civilized, but not affected ... Delightful." (Illustrated London News)

"... that even rarer thing, a very good Irish thriller" (Irish Press)

"Its pace is leisurely, its style and characterization very good, its mystery inscrutable." (Norman Blood, Time and Tide)

Now read some extracts from the opening pages ....

1

Although George Arrow was an experienced traveller, he began to flutter over his luggage quite soon after the train left the station. He took his overcoat off the rack, folded it and laid his hat on top, then unfolded the coat again to search futilely in its pockets for his gloves. He reached up to take down his suitcase, and then dropped his arms suddenly as he remembered. He sat down slowly, deliberately, and held his hands together on his knees. It seemed extraordinary that the recollection should each time send the same sick little shock through every part of him. He had not been warned about this, the worst aspect of his new-found disability. It was three months since he had say opposite the doctor in his shiny room and heard that he was going to die.
His life had been easy until now, He had travelled through all the safest countries of Europe, pleased with everything he saw. At home in Dublin he had collected books and worked on charitable committees, and had given away part of his comfortable income every year to anyone who looked more in need of money than himself.
George was that mixture of caution and romanticism which is often the material of a pre-destined bachelor. For him, all the beautiful ladies floated above the ground, their feet on a soft pink cloud. Since they were so high up, they usually looked over his head. He never noticed the ugly ones, though most of them noticed him, for George was thin and fair and clean looking, and of a good height.
[ ... ]

He had no near relatives. He made his will in favour of a second cousin whom he had never seen, but who had a reputatidn for oddity, principally because he wore a two-foot beard and wrote savage but incomprehensible poems. George liked the sound of him. He put his house property into the hands of his solicitor. Then he gave up his flat in Dublin and put himself into the train for Galway, where Crane's Court was, in a state of immense loneliness.
He was by now obsessed with the idea that he was making his last journey. It was like something out of an old-fashioned play about dying peasants, he thought. "I'm afraid, Maggie, the time has come for me to make me last journey!" But even this reflection failed to cheer him, for more than a moment. He was so depressingly certain that it was his last journey.
He went on to think of Dublin's fair city that he would never see again. This reminded him to feel pleased that he had seen most of the capitals of Europe before Mick had found out about his heart. And Mick had said that Crane's Court was a good hotel, and that he wished he could go there himself to end his days. To end his days - his last journey - it was going to be difficult to live an ordinary life now, with these two phrases continually drumming in his cars. And still they fascinated him, so that he must return to them again and again, with a sort of pleasurable trepidation. He detected in himself too the sort of inner excitement that always goes with new places and new beginnings. And, after all, Mick had said that he would probably live for years, if he learned to look after himself . . .

At this point in his reflections, George began to notice the only other occupant of the carriage. He was a man of about George's own age, which was thirty-six, dressed in a beigecoloured gaberdine suit, with white socks and suede shoes. He wore his hair rather long, and his moustache was so small that one had to look twice to see it at all. His eyelids drooped, as if they were always on the watch to hide the expression in his eyes. Even along the length of the carriage, he emanated mixed odours of scent and whiskey. He was occupied in reading a book with a brown-paper cover, turning the pages with sweaty hands and leering at the contents now and then.
As George watched him, he shut the book suddenly and looked up. He had very bright brown eyes that stared suspiciously for a moment before he said:
"They must have a damned donkey ulling this train." "It picks up speed later on," said George, amused.
Glad of the diversion, he found himself chatting with the stranger, and presently accepting an invitation to visit the bar. They lurched along the corridor, and sat at one of the brown, baize-topped tables.
"My name is Burden," said the man. "John Burden." He jerked the ash off his cigarette nervously. "Your name is Arrow. I read it on your luggage labels. Rather an unusual name, if you don't mind my saying so."
"Yes," said George dryly.
Mr. Burden moved restlessly.
"You know Galway?"
"Not very well. I've been there several times, but I've never stayed long."
"What sort of place is it?"
"Very interesting old town. It has a thirteenth-century cathedral, and a variety of relics of the Twelve Tribes who set up in business there seven hundred years ago."
"Sounds sleepy," said Mr. Burden. "Any nice girls there?"


There is also an Italian version of these extracts.

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