Written by Adrian Alington — Adrian Alington’s break in publishing came during World War I when a fellow officer, who happened to be a partner at Chatto & Windus, asked him to write a novel having seen a satirical play Alington wrote for the troops. The knack for humour stayed with him and The Amazing Test Match Crime was his 10th book. Originally published in 1939, it has been re-released as an ebook and in print by Bloomsbury Reader.
Alongside Alington’s humour, there’s cricket. It’s a traditional English pastime that’s played on village greens up and down the country throughout the summer months. Alington himself was a keen cricketer, and perhaps his time playing county cricket for Oxfordshire in the 1920s is what inspired this crime caper.
A dome-headed criminal mastermind known as the Professor, and two goons – Sawn-off Carlo, and Ralph the Disappointment – have a cunning plan. They’ve been commissioned to disrupt the British Empire by interfering with the fifth, vital test in the series between England and Imperia. There’s only one small problem, the Professor knows nothing about cricket, or ‘crickets’ as he calls it, but plans to remedy this by reading LEG Glance’s The Principles of Sound Batmanship, thereby acquiring all the necessary information to formulate a foolproof plan.
The England selectors have put together a team that looks unstoppable. Team captain Norman Blood is everything a dashing young cricketer should be. Dark, handsome, and the epitome of the perfect athlete. His father lives and breathes cricket, and has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the sport. The old man has tutored his son on all aspects of the subject since infancy.
Another hero of the cricketing world is a potential new boy in the international arena. Joe Prestwick is the shining light, a fast bowler, who comes from the same village as Norman Blood. However, he comes from peasant stock. We’re constantly told that his parents are extremely rude, which basically means they speak in the local dialect. Making the final selection is essential to Prestwick’s future happiness, as he hopes to marry the vicar’s daughter, but can only do so if he makes the team and plays at the Oval. As the team takes to the field, things don’t look hopeful. Until the Professor and his gang put their plan into action, that is.
The plan, when it’s finally unleashed doesn’t quite go off as the criminals had anticipated. Ruining this game could be more of a challenge than the Professor had bargained for, but undeterred, two further tactics are concocted, resulting in the kidnapping of young Norman Blood. However, Joe Preswick sees Norman being snatched and mounts a rescue attempt. Can he save the match and make it onto the field of play?
The humour in this book makes it an outstanding crime caper. It will remind you of an Ealing Comedy and you might find yourself thinking about the Lavender Hill Mob whilst reading it. Once started, it’s a very hard book to put down because you can’t wait to see what these criminals are going to get up to next. It’s a book that will have you chuckling from start to finish. A definite must read!
CFL Rating: 5 Stars