A review of Confidentially Yours by Charles Williams

Reviewed by P.P.O. Kane

Confidentially Yours
By Charles Williams
Duckworth, 2014
ISBN: 9780715649114

Charles Williams, a prolific writer of paperback originals in the 1950s and ‘60s, produced several mysteries of real quality.  Among them, Confidentially Yours, first published in 1962. The set-up is classic noir and goes something like this: after being brought in for questioning by the town sheriff over one murder, John Warren returns home only to stumble over another.  Shortly thereafter, he goes on the run and, aided by his resourceful and beautiful secretary, sets out to bring the real murderer to book and so prove his innocence.  He succeeds, after a fashion.

It is an entertaining mystery and the set-up reminded me of the odd Hitchcock film – The 39 StepsNorth by Northwest, the sort of film where romance blossoms between a couple as they try to evade capture by the police.  Little wonder, then, that François Truffaut, Hitchcock’s great admirer, adapted Confidentially Yours for the screen as Vivement dimanche! in 1983.

You could say, tongue in cheek, that it is the diverting story of how a man loses one wife and finds another.  There are lots of twists and turns to the story, the characters are well-defined (if anything, they behave a little too straightforwardly – no melancholy moping as in some novels I’ve read recently) and Williams’s prose is plenty good enough.

Ed Lynskey has written a pretty good article about Charles Williams, which can be read here.