On a wet and windy silent night in the sleeping city of London the body of a man is found sprawled across Millfield Lane. So begins the puzzle of an intriguing stranger in this enchanting Dr Thorndyke mystery.
"if anything turns up, you'll hear from us. But I doubt if we shall hear anything more of this. Dead or alive, the man seems to have vanished completely. Perhaps the sergeant's right after all, and your dead man is at this moment comfortably tucked up in bed. Good-night, Doctor, and thank you for all the trouble you have taken."
By the time that I reached my lodgings I was tired out and miserably cold; so cold that I was fain to brew myself a jorum of hot grog in my shaving pot. As a natural result, I fell fast asleep as soon as I got to bed and slept on until the autumn sunshine poured in through the slats of the Venetian blind.
THE FINDING OF THE RELIQUARY
I AWOKE on the following morning to a dim consciousness of something unusual, and, as my wits returned with the rapidity that is natural to the young and healthy, the surprising events of the previous night reconstituted themselves and once more set a-going
This is a straightforward detective story, complete with a murder or two, a couple good-looking women, and apparently unrelated events that turn out to be tied together by the thread of criminal deception.
I recommend this book as entertainment. It certainly has a few of the tics of its time and its genre. But it's still a good read.
I also found its climax to be very interesting, because it really focuses on a technical process more than events.
That the criminal is caught -- I don't mean this as a spoiler. Indeed, I think anyone at all familiar with detective stories knows that the criminal is always caught. Unless of course we're talking about a master like Raymond Chandler, who can play with the expectations of the genre and succeed --
That the criminal is caught is in "A Silent Witness" less important for the book than how he is caught. This focus on a technical process as part of a book, as the core of the climax, and as a literary end in itself, reminds me very much of novels like Stephenson's "Cryptonomicon," and other SF stuff, especially cyberpunk. You also have your genius viewed close yet from afar, a possessor of unique talents and insight combined with technical ability -- which is another trope of the Sterling/Gibson/Stephenson set.
Anyway, if you're looking for entertainment and you like detective novels, this could be a good choice for whiling away a couple of evening hours.