I’ve spoken before of my love of old-school crime fiction, and anyone who also reads my travel blog will know that I’m a huge fan of the London Underground and trains in general. Murder Underground is therefore the perfect combination of these two loves.
Miss Euphemia Pongleton is found strangled to death (with her own dog’s lead) on the stairs at Belsize Park station on the Northern Line. Murder Underground tells the story of trying to discover who murdered her, and why.
Miss Pongleton used to live at the Frampton Hotel and we get to meet the other boarders at the hotel, as well as the deceased’s nephew Basil and niece Beryl. The residents and Miss Pongleton’s family have their own theories as to who may have murdered her, and why, but it seems that none of their theories quite fit the circumstances correctly. Everyone has always assumed that Basil will be the beneficiary of Miss Pongleton’s will, but she also had a habit of changing her will whenever he annoyed her – which he seemed to have an ability to do regularly. It is therefore no surprise that some assume he must be guilty in some way. Basil’s own behaviour and vagueness about his alibi don’t help the matter, or impress fellow Frampton resident Betty, who he is supposedly courting.
A chance find by one of the residents eventually leads to the murderer, but not without various twists and turns on the way.
The Northern Line
With the murder taking place at Belsize Park station the Northern Line becomes a key part of the story. It was lovely to see a layout of the station inside the book to help readers understand where Miss Pongleton was discovered and give some context about some of the logistics involved in her murder.
In the end the layout of the Northern Line itself is key to understanding some of the suspects movements and just how well their alibis hold up. I’m guessing that even back when this was first written there were probably restrictions to including part of the tube map, but I certainly found it helpful to reference a couple of times whilst reading the book.
I really enjoyed the physical setting of this particular crime, and found myself becoming more and more fascinated by some of the characters involved, but at the same time the period of time in which the book was set caused some frustration to me personally. At so many points in the book I found myself asking why the people involved didn’t just check CCTV. Or look at the logs for the timing of trains on the day in question. They obviously couldn’t, it being 1934, but a part of my brain just really struggled to switch off from the modern day London Underground and how a crime like this would be solved in a matter of hours rather than days.
Where to buy Murder Underground
Murder Underground is available to purchase online here and has an RRP of £8.99. Mavis Doriel Hay’s other titles are also available, and you can find out more about all the British Library Crime Classics on their website.
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Disclaimer: All books mentioned in this post are ones that I have bought myself or borrowed from the local library. Some links are affiliate links. If you happen to buy anything having clicked on one of them I receive a small commission, but it will cost you no more than normal. Thank you for any purchases that you make. All are very much appreciated.