Stalemate Paperback – 1 Jul 2014
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Hamilton evokes the era very well, weaving the atmosphere and practical details seamlessly into the narrative. At every turn one is struck by the contrast between the 1930s and the present day, especially in terms of communication technology and social mobility. Although phone calls were traceable from public call boxes, detectives had little other than their wits and circumstantial evidence to help them solve crimes. The essential story, however, is timeless. I particularly liked the production values and cover design of this book - the chess board in a subdued, slightly sinister colour way, with an outline of a dead body and a splash of blood, is very effective - - Historical Novel Society
About the Author
Alan Hamilton finds that real events, where there is a mystery or something unexplained, leave so much to the imagination they give the writer of fiction license to make it up. At heart he's a conspiracy theorist though his head tells him accident is usually more likely - albeit far less interesting. As an antidote to the urge to write creatively, Alan is a publisher's editor for non-fiction, academic books and journal articles. He lives by the sea in the South West of the UK. His hobbies are cooking and cryptic crosswords in the national newspapers, winning first prize twice in ten years.
Top customer reviews
Discovering dark secrets about this wife steels his determination to be rid of her, and he blackmails two others into helping him commit the crime. Despite strategic thinking powers nurtured by his passion for chess, Bruce’s plan misfires, and he must face the consequences.
While it’s difficult to warm to any of the characters, the omniscient narrator makes it easy to understand Bruce’s motivation and actions. At times the story reads like journalism, telling rather than showing, particularly during the courtroom scenes, but although that approach is often decried in fiction, it actually worked rather well here.
Although I disliked Bruce, I also felt very sorry for him, constrained in the narrow world of his time and class. His dreary world of lower-middle-class suburbia offers no real hope of betterment, and he only deludes himself when he tries to improve his lot.
Hamilton evokes the era very well, weaving the atmosphere and practical details seamlessly into the narrative. At every turn one is struck by the contrast of between the 1930s and the present day, especially in terms of communication technology and social mobility. Although phone calls were traceable from public call boxes, detectives had little other than their wits and circumstantial evidence to help them solve crimes. The essential story, however, is timeless.
Incidentally, I particularly liked the production values and cover design of this book – the chess board in a subdued, slightly sinister colourway, with an outline of a dead body and a splash of blood, is very effective.
(Reviewed for the Historical Novel Association Indie Reviews)
This novel is woven intricately around facts based on an actual, seemingly senseless and violent unsolved murder case from the 1930’s. Walter Bruce is an insurance salesman in a loveless marriage. He is diagnosed with a terminal illness and at the same time acquires evidence his wife has not only deceived him about her past all the years he’s known her, but has also been unfaithful. He formulates a plan to allow him to live out his remaining years in comfort, with the nursing and care he knows will not be forthcoming from his wife. There is no turning back. Bruce’s chess player’s mind devises the details of a plan and as that plan slowly unravels he must accept the terrible consequences of his actions.
The main protagonist is very difficult to like, yet at the same time, given his lifestyle and home life, there is a small amount of pity mixed in with the aversion. There are many restrictions in the between-the-wars world of lower to middle class Liverpool, but to dispassionately plot his wife’s murder and involve two other, equally distasteful characters, shows quite a calculating and cold nature.
The courtroom scenes are described in detail and, although at times I was overwhelmed with the specifics and technicalities, I appreciate the painstaking research and work that has gone into, not only this aspect, but the whole. Bruce’s feelings throughout are defined so vividly I almost felt I was the one in court. How very frightening to be in that position, especially knowing the evidence was being manipulated. Bruce thought he had orchestrated the ‘perfect murder’ and was totally unprepared for the final verdict, actually believing himself innocent of the specific charge of murder.
This fictional reconstruction of a classic, unsolved mystery is revised to reflect the possible scenario of Bruce plotting his wife’s murder and written with much of the original events and evidence, as the author states in his note at the end of the book…..’Much in the preceding pages follows the details of that case very closely, to the point that some of the dialogue is lifted directly from what was reported as having been said during the events, and, in particular from the then Liverpool City Police Force, and transcripts of the committal, trial and appeal court proceedings in the real Wallace case.’
As in the original case, there seems to all outside intents and purposes, no motive for the crime and only circumstantial evidence against the accused. As for the real-life murder, only William Herbert Wallace would be able to tell the truth of what happened in Anfield, Liverpool in 1931.
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Review by Kathryn Gauci
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