The Thirty-One Doors by Kate Hulme – Review

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By Sandra Callard

Most people love a good murder mystery and this new novel was hailed as such, so I happily began reading The Thirty-One Doors by Kate Hulme, published, by the way, by the illustrious and solid firm of Hodder & Stoughton in their Coronet imprint. It had to be good, right?

Set in 1924 – an era known for the Golden Age of British Crime Fiction – Detective Sergeant Frank Glover is preparing to depart home when he receives a frantic telephone from a large country residence. It is snowing heavily and the bad line makes hearing difficult, but someone is crying for help at Scarpside House, so he gathers his outdoor clothes and sets off to get to the House in question via bike and walking and is soon in imminent danger as he comes across a dead man in the snow.

Everything is to hand for a dyed-in-the wool cracking murder mystery to begin, full of tension and bafflement as Sergeant Glover is cut off by the snow and has to find the murdererer alone and by his own police methods. Unfortunately this is not to be. The story is long and somewhat dull as Glover and his side-kick, Dottie, a servant at the House who tags on to him, tread a weary way through proceedings. Dottie is just about the most believable character in the book and nearly takes over from Sergeant Glover as the most prominent, and I wish she had done. She was a perfectly sketched character who grew as the book continued and was, frankly, the book’s great hope. Frustratingly, if the author could do that to one character, then why not them all?

the thirty one doors kate hulme book review cover“Bodies piling up”

Other people are murdered and they are all trapped in the House by the snow. There is a lot of talk but not much action and every single action is related slowly and thoroughly until l almost lost the will to live or at least to carry on with the book. But I soldiered on to the end with a sigh of relief for what should have been a tingling and exciting denouement. But the text was plodding and the personalities were light and easily forgotten. Sergeant Glover scattered himself about the House on a whim without finding very much until another body popped up, which they did with monotonous regularity.

The people in the House have all vanished, but they slowly reappear so that’s one problem solved, but it takes ages to do so, and it is not quite clear where they have all been. Nobody seems particularly bothered by the murders, not even with bodies piling up, and the whole thing has a “play at the seaside” feel about it. I could go on shedding my layers of disappointment, but the real  shame is how a solidly grounded book with such a fine character as Dottie, ultimately becomes a lost cause.

‘The Thirty-One Doors’ by Kate Hulme is publsihed by Coronet, £18.99 hardback


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