Colonel Mustard in the library with the candlestick.

Sometimes I wonder if there is a crime filter, that makes anything illegal that happened between Queen Victoria’s death and the Kray Twins/Great train robbery era of the 1960s, and outside of a war, appear, well, quaint to me.

Yes, I know that is stupid, and that shocking crime was always there, and people still killed and did evil things to each other in terrible ways, dissolving people in baths of acid and the like, but what I have absorbed from that time so far has been far more Miss Marple and inheritance/adultery based murders in houses with walnut wardrobes, hand painted roses on Royal Doulton china, and through clouds of steam on train station platforms. There are strings of pearls, glass cases of taxidermy and butlers, who rarely, in spite of the prejudice, ‘did it’.

I’ve also enjoyed Peaky Blinders on the BBC, which again seemed shocking as these people are not long back from the trenches of WWI, and here they are cutting each other up and doing cocaine, all while only ever drinking tea from a cup and saucer and having very bad hair cuts.

I am working my way through Graham Greene’s novels and being shown a side of the 1930s which has nothing at all to do with the decade that saw the introduction of free milk in UK schools, increased car ownership, and films like King Kong and The Wizard Of Oz. I’m also slightly spooked, just as Smiths fans everywhere were when David Cameron said he loved them, that Graham Greene is his favourite author. It’s silly, but the less I have in common with Tory leaders, the happier I am.

I have read two so far, in The Quiet American the French are at war in Vietnam, a war correspondent is feeling bloated, middle-aged, and smoking opium. The murder is selfish and functional. In Brighton Rock, a possibly psychopathic teenager is killing people and drinking grapefruit squash (which makes it creepier). Human flesh is feeling the almost painless initial cut of an open razor blade. No one is safe. I can’t quite imagine Hercule Poirot wandering into that situation, and bearing in mind around that time he’d have been solving a murder on the Nile, it would have been tricky, geographically, as well as culturally.

Graham Greene

Graham Greene