For the last two weeks of April, I took a break from my Thursday book reviews and essays. The world was too much with me. I felt old and depleted and tired from worrying about my eldest son who works in a major hospital’s emergency room, tired of mendacious White House trumpetings and trumpery. All I wanted to do — paradoxically enough, given my job — was to lose myself in a lot of reading and temporarily escape the pandemic nightmare.
First I dug into a stack of Golden Age detective novels, all from the early to mid-1920s. I began with Freeman Wills Crofts’s early police procedural, “The Cask,” in which a beautiful young woman’s body is discovered inside a barrel used for packing statuary. Crofts’s style is plain and factual, but surprisingly effective, as we see alibis established and then, gradually, inexorably, dismantled. Except for a thrilling chapter toward the end, the novel is restfully cerebral rather than visceral or dramatic. I recommend it.