July 2018

Leonard Gribble - The Arsenal Stadium Mystery

"This new addition to the British Library Crime Classics series has certainly scored a winning goal!"

The 1939 Arsenal side is firing on all cylinders and celebrating a string of victories. They appear unstoppable, but the Trojans - a side of amateurs who are on a winning streak of their own - may be about to silence the Gunners. Moments into the second half the whistle blows, but not for a goal or penalty. One of the Trojans has collapsed on the pitch. By the end of the day, he is dead. Gribble's unique mystery, featuring the actual Arsenal squad of 1939, sends Inspector Anthony Slade into the world of professional football to investigate a case of deadly foul play on and off the pitch.

With all the success with the recent World Cup, this forgotten classic arrives with the accuracy of a ball at the back of the net! I admit I am not a football follower, but thankfully, Gribble describes the different formations so clearly that even I could see the players on the field as the match is played. However, even if football is not your thing, once the murder has been committed on the football pitch, the rest of the book steps over to the police investigation headed by Inspector Slade.

Slade is not one for jumping out of cars or leaping from tall buildings, in fact, he is of a bovine nature, slow and steady. He does a lot of meditating whilst puffing away on his pipe. What is different about this book from 1939, is that Gribble does round out his characters so that they have a history, they have failings as well as successes. At this time writers concentrated more on the 'puzzle' rather than the players of the drama, but Gribble delivers both. The plot now may feel slightly dated, and even parts have been used since in other books, but Gribble does deliver a good drama with a nice little conundrum at its heart. I had an inkling of the culprit, but really only near the final denouement. 'The Arsenal Stadium Mystery' is a great little tale well told and I do hope that more of Gribbles' mysteries (and he wrote quite a number under different guises) find their way back in to print. This new addition to the British Library Crime Classics series has certainly scored a winning goal!

Reviewed by: C.S.

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