Wobble To Death

Peter Lovesey - Wobble To Death


A Sergeant Cribb mystery

Winner of the Macmillan/Panther First Crime Novel Prize, 1970
Listed in the Hatchards Top 100 Crime Novels
Listed in the Mystery Writers of America Top 100 Mystery Novels

Drawing on my interest in the history of athletics, I set this first novel in the Agricultural Hall, Islington, in 1879, where a bizarre six-day endurance race takes place. “Wobbles” became popular on both sides of the Atlantic in the 1880s.

A strange collection of so-called “proven pedestrians” starts at 1am on a November Monday morning. By Tuesday one of them is dead. Tetanus from infection of a foot blister is suspected at first, but when Sergeant Cribb from Scotland Yard is called in he discovers that strychnine was being given as a stimulant. This is only the first of a series of revelations.

The £1000 competition launched the Macmillan crime list in 1970 edited by Lord Hardinge of Penshurst. There were about 250 entries. On publication day, a 24-hour charity “wobble” was staged around Sloane Square, started by actress Barbara Windsor and the author.

UK Publisher: Macmillan, 1970
UK Paperback: Panther, 1971
US Publisher, Dodd, Mead, 1970
US Paperback: Dell, 1971
Latest UK paperback: Alison & Busby, 1999 ISBN 0-7490-0437-1
Latest US paperback: Soho Press, 2008. ISBN 978-1-56947-523-2

“Here are true Victorians, not pious frauds of legend. A first-rate story of sustained thrill.”
John Dickson Carr, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine

“Nobody ever invented it once again better than that.”
James Crumley, interviewed in
The Guardian

“First prize-winner, and a worthy one … excellently done.”
Edmund Crispin, Sunday Times

“Brilliantly evocative … It is long since I came across so original a setting.”
Cyril Ray, The Spectator

“Don’t miss this. It will be on all the best lists.”
Dorothy B Hughes, Los Angeles Times

“A brilliant reconstruction.”
Maurice Richardson, The Observer