48. Gently by the Shore - second in the George Gently series
by Alan Hunter
Kindle book - 27
Having now read the second George Gently book, I've been thinking about just why I like this series so much. The books are utterly relaxing. They are the purest of detective story escapes. The easiest way to explain what these books are is to note what they are not. Here the reader will not find a deeply troubled detective, whose past or present life interferes with his work. There is no love interest. There isn't psychological crime. The books offer the solving of a murder, pure and simple. And sometimes this is just what I want to read.
In Gently by the Shore we get to know the detective a bit better. He has been called to solve a crime at a seaside resort, Starmouth, where he spent time during his own childhood. He is struck by the changes but doesn't let the emotions overwhelm him. Here are Gently's words at the end of the book.
'But things change, Dutt ... it doesn't take long to alter them. Do you know what struck me most while we were on this job?'And there in a nutshell is the essence of these books. Yes, George Gently thinks about life but he doesn't focus too much on the whys and wherefores. He gets up in the morning and goes to work. He solves crimes. He is well-respected by his colleagues. He doesn't worry about much. When he does look back in pensive contemplation, he doesn't delve too deeply.
'Well, Dutt, it was the donkeys.'
'They've done away with them, Dutt. There isn't one on the beach. If you'd known Starmouth when I knew Starmouth it would make you feel older ... but something like that goes on all the time, doesn't it?'
He could see himself now as he was then, a thoughtful child with sunburn and freckles, and those damned knickerbockers. A solitary child he had been, a bad mixer. It may have been the knickerbockers that made him antisocial. ...The crime in this book is that a naked body is found on the beach creating quite a bit of excitement for the bustling holiday crowd.
Nostalgic memories didn't mix successfully with homicide, and he just had to shake himself into an alert and receptive state of mind.
He had stood about five feet ten. He had weighed about 185. His hair had been pale brown, his eyes blue, his eyebrows slanting, his heavy features decidedly un-English. And he had acquired, probably rather late in life, a feature of the keenest police interest: a collection of four stab-wounds in the thorax.There is nothing politically correct in these books because that was not known or practiced in those days. I don't think now anyone would say 'decidedly un-English.' And a writer definitely wouldn't refer to a man as a 'halfwit.' This man is called Nits, and he is that familiar literary and cinematic character who though slow of thinking, often speaks words of great insight.
Gently by the Shore is rich in details of the seaside, from the 'sun-baked streets' to the Saturday departures and arrivals of the throngs of visitors. It has the timeless feeling of a summer week by the sea. Reading it is a little like a vacation for the reader with the added pleasure of a mystery to be solved. And I was happy to find that the donkeys are back on the beach all these years later.