Carter Dickson, 1951 (originally 1935).
I wasn’t that keen on this – process-heavy, and the detective and other characters don’t have enough life for me. But here are a couple of sections I did like:
The street was very quiet and dim-lit, a backwater in itself, which curved round to the right towards the mysteriousness of Lansdowne Passage. And, towards Lansdowne Passage, the heavy house-fronts began to fall away in startling ruin. They were tearing down many of the solid town-houses that had bulwarked Mayfair for two hundred years. A ragged side-wall or two still remained standing, still patched with the wall-paper of vanished rooms; a heap of stones, a gaping vastness of cellars in the open spaces, a street gutted to ruin.
(A character says a few pages later that “‘Old Mayfair’s going, and maybe a good thing. They’re buying up all the good sites for big blocks of flats and cinemas … ‘”.)
Carstairs was a lank young fellow with a ruddy face, a brown tooth-brush moustache, and a genial manner, whose hobby seemed to be any sport which entailed the more spectacular ways of breaking your neck. As an example of the Silent English Sportsman, he was a surprise. Not only did he impart most of his life history in the first fifteen minutes, but he illustrated each adventure with a powerful piece of acting and a wealth of gesticulation. He used everything on the table to plot out the course for a motor-race, making frantic brr-r-ing noises as the salt-cellar which represented his car went plunging round the track. In the stealth of a hunting expedition, he leered behind imaginary rifle-sights and expelled his breath triumphantly as the express bullet went home. And, oddly enough as Tairlane found, he was not a liar.