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Period Thriller Keeps ‘Em Guessing
Some books ‘age’ with time and go on to become classics, somehow denying social convention as they seemingly stay in the public eye for decades.

Edgar Wallace died in 1932 and, as he shed his mortal coil, he was credited as the author of 175 novels and 24 plays and film scripts. He was prolific, to say the least, and, last night, the public of Leeds witnessed, once more, The Case of the Frightened Lady from the man said to have been the king of the modern thriller.

Wallace was latterly considered as being politically incorrect – his pro-imperialistic stance is a case in point – and, in many ways, his work is so very ‘British’ to the point that dialogue, probably once taken seriously, at times descends into light comedy purely because it feels so out of kilter. However, it is still a joy to observe the re-creation of a time long since gone!

This whodunnit is set in a stately home, Lady Lebanon, the wonderful Deborah Grant, is the matriarch of the house. She has a secret, there are a couple of murders, one at the annual fancy dress ball, attended by all and sundry, and only Chief Supt Tanner and his sidekick DS Totti can unravel the mystery.

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There were some great performance in this maze of intrigue, and as much about the period in which it is set – servants, butlers, a daft titled son and a gamekeeper figure prominently – it also tells you about the mind of its creator.

Wallace must have had thought processes like a ricocheting bullet, seamlessly stringing a complicated plot together, despite running a series of sub plots that would fuddle a lesser literary giant!

Grant was a great anchor to the whole play as Lady Lebanon and captured her character beautifully, arrogant, presumptuous, strangely benevolent but, at times, dominant in that upper-class way, always politely demanding what Lady Lebanon wanted.

Gray O’Brien as Chief Superintendent Tanner was her nemesis, the senior officer with the gentle Scottish brogue, suitably polite until he is pushed too far by the Aristocratic toff and has to threaten her with arrest unless she plays ball.

The Case of the Frightened Lady was like watching Cluedo come to life on stage and, despite being a self-confessed loather of whodunnits – loathing is perhaps a little strong – I DID enjoy it even though I have never picked up a crime novel in my life!

However, irrespective of this critic’s singular opinion, there was a full house, proving, once more, that thrillers remain eternally popular with a strand of society whether or not they were written by a man said to have penned his work at breakneck speed.

No, I’m not telling you who did it. Get your brass out!

The Case of the Frightened Lady
At Leeds Grand
Until Saturday.

Period Thriller Keeps ‘Em Guessing, 24th July 2018, 10:21 AM