Swept away by an admirer's charm, Lina Mclaidlaw finds herself settled in a life she could never have imagined. Her husband Johnnie is feckless and irresponsible, and even though she accepts he's a murderer, Johnnie still adores her - doesn't he?
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However it is for his two masterpieces, Malice Aforethought and Before the Fact, both written as Francis Iles, that he is most famous. With these innovative novels he turned the crime genre on its head, by revealing the identity of the murderer from page one. The reader was thus led not on a trail of clues to uncover the killers identity, but into the mind of the murderer himself. With the emphasis on character rather than plot, Iles was the father of the psychological suspense novel as we know it today. In Crime and Mystery: The 100 Best Books, H.R.F. Keating described Before the Fact as One of the key texts in the history of crime fiction.
Iles was also a literary reviewer for the Daily Telegraph, the Sunday Times and, in later life, The Guardian. He died in 1971, aged seventy-seven.
In 1939 Alfred Hitchcock adapted Before the Fact into his classic film Suspicion, starring Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine.
THE PAN CLASSIC CRIME SERIES The idea for the Pan Classic Crime series was sparked by two separate incidents - my struggle to find a new copy of MALICE AFORETHOUGHT by Francis Iles (one of my favourite crime novels), and a newspaper article about Eric Ambler which claimed that none of his novels was available in the UK. I then began six months of research to discover which other classics had shockingly been allowed to go out of print (concentrating particularly on novels published 1930-1960). And so the Pan Classic Crime series was born, launching in April 1999 with six titles - including two by Eric Ambler and, of course, MALICE AFORETHOUGHT.
Before my research began I must admit my knowledge of pre-1970s crime fiction was restricted to the giants - Doyle, Christie, Highsmith, Chandler. And I must admit, too, that I was hesitant about how well these 'lost treasures' would stand up to modern crime fiction. How wrong I was - the novels I read and am now publishing were remarkably sophisticated, skilful, innovative, insightful, and full of character and wit. I felt suitably ashamed for having doubted them!
By July this year we will have published 18 titles in the series. One of our aims has been introduce new readers to these authors and, with this in mind, each edition is introduced by a well-known crime writer of today. For example, Colin Dexter, P.D. James, Robert Goddard and Robert Harris have all contributed to the series. What pleased me the most was the phrase that popped up again and again in the letters that accompanied their introductions: 'I'd forgotten just how good they were!'
Also in the series 1) The Mask of Dimitrios by Eric Ambler With an introduction by Robert Harris
2) Malice Aforethought by Francis Iles With an introduction by Colin Dexter
3) The Beast Must Die by Nicholas Blake With an introduction by P.D. James
4) Journey Into Fear by Eric Ambler With an introduction by Robert Harris
5) Green for Danger by Christianna Brand With an introduction by Lindsey Davis
6) Love Lies Bleeding by Edmund Crispin With an introduction by Jonathan Gash
7) Before the Fact by Francis Iles With an introduction by Colin Dexter
8) Epitaph for a Spy by Eric Ambler With an introduction by Robert Harris
9) Tragedy at Law by Cyril Hare With an introduction by Frances Fyfield
10) Last Seen Wearing . . . by Hillary Waugh With an introduction by Reginald Hill
11) Cause for Alarm by Eric Ambler With an introduction by Robert Goddard
12) A Tangled Web by Nicholas Blake With an introduction by P.D. James
13) Buried for Pleasure by Edmund Crispin With an introduction by Jonathan Gash
14) Judgment on Deltchev by Eric Ambler With an introduction by Robert Goddard
15) My Name is Michael Sibley by John Bingham With an introduction by John le Carre
16) Passage of Arms by Eric Ambler With an introduction by Robert Goddard
17) Death of a Doll by Hilda Lawrence (pub July 2001) With an introduction by Minette Walters
18) Five Roundabouts to Heaven by John Bingham (pub July 2001) With an introduction by John le Carre --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Written in the early 1930s, at a time when the genre was dominated by the Agatha Christie style of mystery, red herring, and the last-minute denouement, this book turns the crime novel on its head. The identity of the murderer is announced in the very fast paragraph - just as in Iles's earlier classic novel, Malice Aforethought.
The book then goes on to describe the relationship between Johnnie Aysgarth and his wife Lina, their meeting, their marriage, the personality flaws that lead one to murder and the other to keep silent even as realisation strikes.
The story builds up to an almost unbearable ending, which just makes you put the book down, pause think for second or two, and just think "Wow".
An absolute classic. I urge you to read it. then buy Malice Aforethought and read that too!
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