I was first drawn to Murder Underground by its fabulous vintage cover; it was the woman’s outfit that sold it to me I am sure. The second factor that drew me towards this book was the hilarious, P.G.Wodehouse-esque name of the murder victim, Miss Pongleton. When the strangled body of Miss Pongleton is found on the barely used staircase of Belize Park tube station her fellow boarders at The Frampton are intrigued and determined to solve this mystery for themselves. A mystery that throws up several red herrings, missing jewels and some a list of suspects longer than a tube line.
It did take me a while to get into this book. I don’t know if it was the book or the facts started reading it back home, in a house full of dogs rushing everywhere and people rushing around them twice as fast. I always find my reading back at the family home difficult as I don’t get as much time on my own to just chill out and read and this can make me a teeny bit cranky. Although saying that the past two days have allowed me more reading time so I started to enjoy Murder Underground a bit more. And I guessed who the murderer was long before it was revealed! This is a miracle as usually I never get it right…maybe that’s a sign of a poorly written crime novel?
Murder Underground did fill me with a sense of nostalgia and I think a lot of that was linked to the setting in general. I have a bit of geeky love of trains. Now let me say this before you start making any assumptions, I am not a trainspotter. I do not care about modern trains, but I do like old fashioned trains and steam trains. I also love The Tube in general and always find the idea that this complicated system was created over 150 years ago amazing. I am also somewhat intrigued as to how the whole ticket/barrier system worked before technology took over, and this world is captured perfectly in Murder UndergroundThe idea that people live in hotels always makes me think about Fawlty Towers or reminds me of reading Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont. It is a world I never experienced and a world that I am sure I will never know, but I do love reading about it. I think it is the general gossipy nature and nosey-ness that comes with living in such close proximity with people you aren’t related to. For me this was the best part of the novel. I don’t know why but I didn’t really engage with it. It was a good story and pretty easy to read, but I am a devoted Agatha Christie fan and I think sub consciously I was aware that this was not quite as good as a Christie crime novel. It is silly to compare, I know, but I guess sometimes it is inevitable. I wouldn’t discourage people from reading this novel, but I can’t say it is a contender for the best book I have read this year.
Murder Underground is one of a handful of novels republished as part of the British Library Crime Classics. These novels have been out of print for decades and republished in fancy new covers. As with Persephone Books, I love the whole reprinting lost treasures and I think it is a fantastic idea to have a series focused purely on crime from The Golden Age. I will certainly be reading more from this series, especially as my mum bought one of the books when I bought this one.
Murder Underground has taken the 1934 spot for my Reading the Twentieth Century challenge.