My Forgotten Book for today is Clifford Witting's Measure for Murder. Witting's name isn't well-known these days, but he retains a number of admirers, and those picky (and knowledgeable) critics Jacques Barzun and Wendell Hertig Taylor rated this particular novel a classic, including it in a series of fifty crime classics from the first half of the twentieth century.
Witting's series detective, Inspector Charlton, makes an appearance in this book, but not until half way through. The structure is unusual. We are told about the discovery of a murder at the start of the book, but then we go back in time and follow a story told by Vaughan Tudor, which sets the scene for the crime.
Tudor is quite a likeable character, and he describes how, after an unsatisfactory spell as a bank clerk, he became an estate agent in a small town, and involved himself in the activities of a newly formed amateur dramatic society. The society gets off to a good start, but tensions mount as Tudor, and one or two of his colleagues, become enamoured of a very attractive actress. Preparations for the staging of Measure for Measure are disrupted by several untoward incidents - and then murder is committed.
The book is set just before, and just after, the start of the Second World War,and I was interested by Tudor's account of small town life at that troubled period of our history. The murder mystery, however, I found less satisfactory. There are too many characters, and the story felt very cluttered. I also found the motive and identity of the culprit less than totally convincing. But Witting's prose is light and agreeable, and he eventually earned membership of the Detection Club.