Hunt the Slipper by Henry Cecil
Created: Tue Mar 23 12:29:07 2010 | Last modified: Sat Jun 19 20:45:07 2010
Most of Henry Cecil's novels do have a whimsical element and "Hunt the Slipper" is no exception. In fact, if anything, this is one of the more peculiar ones. The storyline is as follows: Graham Hunt, a (reasonably) happily married man suddenly disappears one fine day and his wife Harriet has reasons to suspect that he has run away with another woman. This belief is strengthened when she starts getting a monthly "pension" from an untraceable source. However, for seven years she hangs on to her marriage in the hope that Graham will return to her one fine day. However she realizes that she cannot wait forever and decides to divorce him on the grounds of desertion. But out of the blue, Graham returns home on the very day she has been to the Divorce Court. Unable to believe her eyes, Harriet decides to inquire into his disappearance and subsequent reappearance, but things are not what they seem. In fact, there is a lot more to Graham's long absence from home than even she could have suspected.
What follows is a somewhat confusing narrative, weighed down by too much dialogue between the characters. If anything, that alone takes away the thrill factor from this story. Even the action scenes that follows are too slow and don't evoke enough tension. Henry Cecil's narrative method is definitely "tell" and not "show" - probably a result of his legal background - but the story by itself is interesting enough to keep reading without a pause. The first half of the story is intriguing and draws the reader into the mystery quite well, but once the mystery behind Graham's absence for 7 years is explained (and the explanation is somewhat tame and a bit of a let-down), the story is bogged down by needless explanatory dialogues which go on for several pages at a stretch. Along the way, there is also the usual Henry Cecil discourse on the Law - this time with relation to the advancement of technology which makes even fingerprint evidence unreliable and the conviction of innocent persons as a result of such evidence. He also manages to take a dig at the public apathy to prison conditions in a so-called civilized society and the lack of humanity in dealing with convicted prisoners.
Cecil's characters come across as bad stage actors without the requisite dramatic skills; and without a fleshed-out well-founded realism they are quite hollow as well. He prefers to explain the characters directly rather than let them show their nature through their behaviour. This is somewhat awkward and slows down the narrative a tad.
In conclusion I can say that this is yet another Henry Cecil novel that brings out his own unique flavour. I would rate it 2.5/5 because of its lack of humour and its predictable long-drawn out climax.