Sunday, July 24, 2011

Gently by the Shore by Alan Hunter

48. Gently by the Shore - second in the George Gently series
by Alan Hunter
mystery, 1956
Kindle book - 27
finished, 7/2/11

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?'
'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?'
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.
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. ...
Nostalgic memories didn't mix successfully with homicide, and he just had to shake himself into an alert and receptive state of mind.
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.
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.


  1. Nan,
    You are really making me homesick for England!

  2. I have a favourite photograph of my husband on the beach. He is about seven years old, squinting in the sun, and riding a donkey.

  3. Hi

    I love the picture of the flower in uour Header. I have a varity of such flowers in my garden at present. In Swedish these flowers are called Daglilja (="lily of the day")

    I haven´t read any of Alan Hunter´s novels. I will try to find some

  4. Already your first review for this series made me want to read it, but so far, I have not gotten round to even checkiing for them in the online catalogue of my local library. Now you have just reminded me of it, thank you!
    Indeed, sometimes all we want from a mystery novel is the solving of the mystery, not the delving into the deeply troubled souls of detective, suspects and side-kicks.
    Regarding the donkeys - well, I am not entirely sure I am happy about them. Yes, they belong to the English seaside towns like buckets and spades, but I somehow can not imagine that the donkeys enjoy the endless days on the sandy ground, surrounded and mounted by excited children with shrill voices, and being lead up and down the beach dozens of times a day.

  5. What's not to like with a detective named George Gently? Gently by the Shore is now on my ever-growing list of books to read and I thank you.

  6. Incredible review! This is just my kind of read!

    Thanks for visiting My Bookshelf earlier. T&T are rather new to me but I do love their personalities in the Agatha Christie books.

  7. Kay, that is a constant state for me. :<)

    Pamela, how dear.

    Gunnar, thank you for coming by and for your kind words about the photo. I love 'lily of the day.' Is it pronounced dog-lil-ya?
    I think you might like the Gently books.

    Librarian, such a good point about the donkeys. I suppose it depends on how well they are treated. Our donkey is extremely sociable and would probably love that job. It would seem the donkeys must be monitored to be sure they are alright, mustn't they?

    And he is a gentle soul, Penny!

  8. Shirley, I'm looking forward to meeting them!

  9. Nan, That book sounds interesting. I just finished a book I won from Cindy's blog. A Kiiling in Antiques (A Lucy St. Elmo Antiques Mystery) by Mary Moody. The setting was the Brimfield Antique Market & it seemed to be fairly well researched, etc.

    I see by your book list that you read the first in Miss Read's Thrush Green series. I have read (as far as I know) everything she wrote! I really like her books. Recently I found 3 books in one volume for 50 cents at a thrift store! I am now its proud owner!

  10. I can't remember if I thanked you for pointing out this series; I read the first one and put 'Alan Hunter' on my TBR list. And then when I looked at my list the other day at the library I couldn't remember who he was. Our little library here at the Lake didn't have any of his books (no surprise) and I had meant to look him up when I got home but forgot. Thank you for the reminder. I'm off to put this one on my Kindle.

  11. An added comment: ass with Agatha and Ngaio Marsh, I too noticed the "un-PC-ness" of the book I read. But that was just how it was and I take it in the historical context, while being glad things have changed. It doesn't stop me from enjoyiong these books in the slightest. But I have not convinced one family member who shares my political outlook and usually fiction tastes. She can't quite stomach the references such as the ones you cited. (But she is younger without the historical context in real life).

  12. That's a lucky find, Rebecca!!

    Sallie, I think there are six available on the Kindle. After that, I'll have to peruse the used bookstores. I wince when I read the old books, but as you say, that's the truth of the matter in those days.

  13. These Gently books sound like something I'd enjoy, Nan. I wonder why I've never heard of them before...? Oh, well, I've heard of them now. :)

  14. Yvette, if it wasn't for the English tv show, I'd never have heard of these books either!


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