If Lesley Dexter had not been a snob her husband might have lived out his three-score-and-ten years.
Five years have passed without any major crime disturbing the provincial peace of the city of Burnham, and then, on an October night, a scream rends the midnight air in the residential suburb of Westford Bridge. P.C. Daker, hurrying to the door of Himalaya Villa in River Close, finds the tenant, Robert Dexter, lying dead across his own threshold. After a night's investigation, Sir Wilfrid Burrows, the Chief Constable, decides to call in New Scotland Yard.
Inspector Gordon Knollis, transferred to the Yard during the war years, is sent down to the city where he had once been the head of the C.I.D. He finds himself faced with a disturbing puzzle, a crime with no apparent motive, and even his knowledge of local conditions does little to help him in his endeavours to unravel it. There is a host of alibis, but he breaks them down one by one in his own inimitable way, eventually resolving the situation and providing a denouement that comes as a surprise even to his own assistant, Sergeant Ellis.
Sable Messenger was originally published in 1947. This new edition features an introduction by crime fiction historian Curtis Evans.
"Francis Vivian skips all tedious preliminaries and is commendably quick off the mark; we meet his characters with lively pleasure." Observer
"Mr. Vivian neatly fits everything in its place." Times Literary Supplement
Francis Vivian was born Arthur Ernest Ashley in 1906 at East Retford, Nottinghamshire. He was the younger brother of noted photographer Hallam Ashley. Vivian laboured for a decade as a painter and decorator before becoming an author of popular fiction in 1932. In 1940 he married schoolteacher Dorothy Wallwork, and the couple had a daughter. After the Second World War he became assistant editor at the Nottinghamshire Free Press and circuit lecturer on many subjects, ranging from crime to bee-keeping (the latter forming a major theme in the Inspector Knollis mystery The Singing Masons). A founding member of the Nottingham Writers' Club, Vivian once awarded first prize in a writing competition to a young Alan Sillitoe, the future bestselling author. The ten Inspector Knollis mysteries were published between 1941 and 1956. In the novels, ingenious plotting and fair play are paramount. A colleague recalled that 'the reader could always arrive at a correct solution from the given data. Inspector Knollis never picked up an undisclosed clue which, it was later revealed, held the solution to the mystery all along.' Francis Vivian died on April 2, 1979 at the age of 73.