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Death's darkest face
Symons, Julian, 1912-1994.
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New York : Viking, 1990.
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Booklist Review

A fictional "Julian Symons" receives a manuscript in which a dead actor friend describes his attempt to be "sort of a detective." Hoping to determine his father's role in the disappearance of a poet in England between the wars, Geoffrey Elder puts the pieces together in a puzzle that involves adultery, gambling, revenge, and possibly murder. The manuscript begins with Geoffrey's childhood--dreams of tennis, a beautiful girl, and a father struggling with strong emotions barely held in check. As the narrative jumps between Geoffrey's investigation in the sixties and his recollections of the thirties, we learn of affairs between servants and masters, of the relationship between Geoffrey's father and the poet's lover, of a whole tangled fabric of repression and secret lives. The novel is less a straightforward piece of detection than an emotionally turbulent journey into a father's love--a painstakingly detailed, multifaceted sojourn that brings with it both understanding and guilt. We are offered two "solutions": Geoffrey's, which is heartfelt, emotional, and lightly dipped in pathos, and Symons' own, which is cerebral and fiendishly clever. Death's Darkest Face stands as a quintessential example of how the mystery genre can function as a tool for the skilled prose craftsman to get at something considerably deeper and more resonant than whodunit. --Peter Robertson

Publisher's Weekly Review

Symons plays a role in his own novel when central character Geoffrey Elder entrusts him with secrets about a poet's murder. ``The president of Britain's Detective Club brings all the experience of his distinguished literary career to the writing of a fine novel, while the `fictional' Symons brings sleuthing skills to bear on the crime, producing a satisfying solution,'' said PW. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved