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Before the Fact ([Gollancz vintage detection]) Hardcover – 9 Mar 1978


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Littlehampton Book Services Ltd; New impression edition (9 Mar 1978)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0575024607
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575024601
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,406,114 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

From the Publisher

A ground-breaking novel of crime fiction
Francis Iles was the pseudonym for Anthony Berkeley Cox. The main body of his work comprises the crime novels he wrote as ‘Anthony Berkeley’, which mainly feature the amateur detective Roger Sheringham.

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 killer’s 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.


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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Neil Truby on 3 Aug 2001
Format: Paperback
This book is a study of the pyschology of a murderer, and the victim.
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Officer Dibble VINE VOICE on 31 Dec 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is a scandal that this novel is out of print. The cost of even a second hand copy should tell you that this is gold dust.

The story charts the relationship of Lina McLaidlaw and the dashing, debonair Johnnie Aysgarth. It is set amongst the English upper middle class in rural Dorset; a land of tea, strawberries and cream and private tennis parties.

Lina is known as 'monkeyface' or 'letterbox Lina' due to her wide mouth and cannot believe her luck at capturing the playboy Johnnie. She is besotted and forgives all his sins, treating him as 'a guilty schoolboy'. The novel brilliantly traces the change in the relationship as Lina becomes a 'reluctant schoolmistress' over several years of highly emotional ups and downs.

The crime element is not explicit and there is no 'detection' element whatsoever. This is all about the balance of powers in a marriage as awful secrets emerge. The ending left me stunned; it was extraordinary.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By booksetc on 28 Feb 2009
Format: Paperback
Francis Iles's gripping psychological thriller was far ahead of its time. We know from the first sentence that Johnnie Aysgarth is a murderer. More interesting and more sinister is his relationship with his wife Lina, who appeared to be on the shelf until he married her for her money ... but does he love her, nevertheless? Lina is swept off her feet by her charming young husband. When the honeymoon is over and she discovers Johnnie's feckless, cheating amorality, she makes excuse after excuse for him ... even when she discovers that he as good as murdered her father. As the years pass, Lina changes ... once a gauche, innocent young girl lacking in confidence (rather like the second wife in Rebecca) she becomes sharp-tongued and watchful, Johnnie's mother/policeman as much as his wife. And yet, no matter how far Johnnie goes, she always forgives him ...

Francis Iles's book was made into a film by Hitchcock, 'Suspicion' with Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine. But Hitchcock, uncharacteristically, gave the fim a soppy, contrived ending to preserve Cary's nice guy image. The book is much better!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Not as famous as 'Malice Aforethought', the second novel written under the pen name of Francis Iles still provides a very satisfying read. It also gives a fascinating picture of England (mainly Dorset and London) in the 1930s and another dark spin on the cosy world of The Golden Age of detective writing.
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By Goodreviewer on 12 Jun 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I didn't know anything about Francis Iles (aka Alexander Berkeley) and only saw his name on the credits of the film 'Suspicion' starring Joan Fontaine and Cary Grant, as the author of this book upon which the film was based.

I am so glad I bought it. It is so much better than the film. The film does not work for me, not because of the excellent casting (Cary Grant makes an excellent Johnnie Aysgarth) but because it changes the plot so significantly.

It's interesting and unusual because it actually concentrates on the mind of the female character and how she feels about her husband. In that respect it's a bit like S J Watson's 'Before I go to Sleep', for example, and I don't think that the psychology in the book is hindered by the fact it was published in the early thirties.

I see that Anthony Andrews did a remake of this story, how I would love to get hold of that!
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By Tonie T on 18 Feb 2013
Format: Paperback
If you've seen the Hitchcock film Suspicion, you'll be familiar with this novel by Francis Iles. It's the book that inspired the film, although there are a few differences. This is classic 1930s crime fiction, with a rather tragic ending, and I loved the style of writing: quite matter of fact, but sinister, always making you feel slightly uncomfortable.
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