Plodding hero makes Beyond This Place a winner

abandoned green bicycle
Who rode this green bicycle?

Beyond This Place is one of A. J. Cronin’s most intriguing novels, and one in a genre not typical for him: It’s a mystery.

When 21-year-old Paul Burgess needs his birth certificate to get a teaching job, his mother has to tell him he’s really Paul Mathry. His father, Rees Mathry, is serving a life sentence for murder.

Paul learns his father was sentenced to hang, but the sentence was commuted. Paul finds that suspicious.

Further investigation turn up other information oddly omitted from the police inquiry: a bag left at the murder scene was made of human skin, and one witness believed the man who fled the scene had escaped on a green bicycle.

Paul’s investigation makes some very influential people very uncomfortable.

Some of the dialog is stilted, but the strong story pulls readers over those rocky patches. Even as Paul makes progress, the outcome is never assured.

Paul himself might fail under pressure.

His father might die in prison.

Key witnesses might be bought off.

Paul is a decent, persistent plodder. His very ordinariness is part of the attraction of this novel. When Paul’s successes create more difficulties for him, readers will feel he’s one of them

Beyond This Place
by A. J. Cronin
Little, Brown, 1953
316 pages
1953 bestseller # 7
My grade: B

Photo credit: Forgotten railway station 2 by Ivanmarn  http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1275096

© 2013 Linda Gorton Aragoni
 
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Linda Aragoni

I read. I write. I think. I make big ideas simple. I help teachers teach expository writing to teens and adults. In my free time, I read and review old novels.

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