Death Has Deep Roots

The “who’s done it” style of detective literature surely needs no introduction. Ever since I was a child, I’ve loved Agatha Christie and the local Labyrinth and Green Library editions, supplying me with all the high-quality detective fiction I could wish for. So when I bought Michael Gilbert’sDeath Has Deep Roots (*Hlboké korene smrti *in Slovak) from the local library, I thought I was in for a standard treat. Turns out I was wrong.

My beautiful, tattered Hlboké korene smrti (Death Has Deep Roots) by Michael Gilbert, decommissioned from a library.

Not long after the Second World War has ended, there’s a dead body in a hotel in England, and only one girl, Vicky, had the motive and the opportunity for murder. What started as a fairly simple trial quickly turns into a convoluted plot when Vicky decides to change her lawyers. A long and thrilling investigation in England and France ensues, uncovering many past events that were intended to be forgotten and after a while, the investigators realize that maybe they only have scratched the surface of a much bigger illegal operation, and may have found way more information than they needed to know.

When the book came out in 1951, the times were a lot different. When investigators wanted to find something out, they actually got on a train and traveled somewhere, just to ask a couple of questions. They had to use telegrams and stationary phones and written letters to keep in touch. We all know this, just as we know there were times when there was no electricity, no wheel or no fire; the thing is, we don’t really realize what living without them meant. That’s great about books like Death Has Deep Roots – when it was written, it was “contemporary”, and that’s why it helps you imagine what living back then was truly like, with all the implications, restrictions, or sometimes even greater freedom of the era long gone. The feeling is especially powerful because of the consistency of its conveyance; because the author didn’t have to rely on historical research and fill in the gaps, trying to mimic the past as it might have once appeared. He just described what he saw around him.

And there’s a certain appeal to books from a library – their old smell, the way they’re tattered and battered and worn (my copy is quite old now, almost two times older than me). Not to mention I could spend tons of time wondering what the hell does that Rorschach ink blot on the cover mean. I think it’s a well. :)