Friday, 25 January 2019


Simon Gold is an antiques dealer in a town that must be Rye. He's divorced, and lives with his sister Stephanie, whom he describes with affectionate accuracy as 'simple'. He is perhaps something of an obsessive, which turns out to be crucial quality when he meets Gerald Coombs, looking for a desk, and his wife Charlotte. Stephanie may be simple, but she senses immediately Simon likes Mrs. Coombs, and he is soon invited to dinner, and he soon discovers a rapier used as a poker in Gerald's fireplace, and with his obsessive nature, realises that Shakespeare, in his will, left his sword to one Thomas Combe. Could this be that very, long-lost, sword?

Alan Judd has written a very English version of Double Indemnity, playing on that obsessive quality becomes a central theme in the novel, but being English, Simon's real obsession becomes, not Charlotte Coombs, but Shakespeare's sword. It is as obvious to Simon as it is to the reader where all of this is heading, and how it gets there is as carefully thought out as it is, in retrospect, explained by Simon's narration, and of course what is most English of all is the very modest sense of irony which pervades the story's finish.

Judd maintains this tone throughout, and it gains its timbre from the way you come to join Simon's perspective; it is easy to forget early on that it is his addressing you, but by the end the story has gained its ironic resonance from just that fact and it's deeply-veined Englishness is reinforced by its modest tone. This is Simon Gold, Sussex antiques dealer, not Walter Neff, California insurance salesman.

A nicely worked sort of antique, as if murder were nothing to really get too excited about.

Shakespeare's Sword by Alan Judd
Simon & Schuster £8.99 ISBN 9781471178191

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