Julian Symons: The Progress of a Crime

24 Festive Tasks: Door 11 – International Children’s Day, Book:

Read a middle grade book (any genre), a book written by an author under 18 years old at the time of publication, or a book prominently featuring a child, juvenile, or young adult character.


I had been planning to use Julian Symons’s “Progress of a Crime”, which I finished late last night / early this morning, for New Year’s Day; but the topic of what, when this book was written (in the 1960s), was beginning to be called “juvenile delinquency” is central to the plot — and in addition to the two juvenile suspects / defendants and their friends, there is also a child witness … so International Children’s Day it is, instead.

Based on a real life case, “The Progress of a Crime” deals, on the one hand, with society’s and the police and criminal justice system’s response to what today we’d call gang violence; on the other hand, and more specifically — the role of the media. It concerns a murder during a rural Guy Fawkes Night celebration, where it is clear that several members of a group of (then-)so-called “Teddy boys” were close to the victim — against whom they bore a grudge due to a prior altercation — but while several of them are believed to have carried knives, it is unclear which one of them actually committed the murder. Among the witnesses to the scene is a young reporter, for whom the case, and its “progress” up to the day of the verdict, constitute a rude awakening, and a sort of social and professional “coming of age” of its own.

(@Mike, you might find this book interesting — it’s pretty much the polar opposite of Agatha Christie’s take on the same topic.)


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