#706: The Case of the April Fools (1933) by Christopher Bush

Case of the April Foolsstar filledstar filledstarsstarsstars
Three years.  That’s how long ago TomCat’s review of The Case of the April Fools (1933) typified Christopher Bush’s writing as falling “halfway between Freeman Wills Crofts and John Dickson Carr”.  So I read the oft-celebrated Cut-Throat (1932) and didn’t really get on with it and then, to be honest, other books intruded and I simply never got back to Bush.  I wasn’t avoiding him, per se, and Dean Street Press had gamely recommended Bush’s twentieth novel The Case of the Green Felt Hat (1939) as possibly more to my liking…but, in these reprint-rich times, it can be difficult to keep up, y’know?

Then, a couple of weeks ago, Nick at The Grandest Game in the World, surely one of the best-read contributors to our little GAD blogging coterie, reviewed The Case of the Green Felt Hat, recalling to me my intentions, and recommending in the comments that The Case of the April Fools might be more my tempo.  And so here we are, with yet another example of me being underwhelmed and everyone wondering what on earth my problem is.  So allow me to attempt to explain…

Had this book been published 10 years earlier, before the tenets of detective fiction had found a surer footing, it would earn another star for effort: it energetically gets amateur detective Ludovic Travers down to a country pile for an evening that he knows isn’t going to be quite what is purported, and it kills one guest and then other with an impatience that borders on the reckless restlessness of that enthusiastically innovating era.  These opening few chapters are among the best, with some wonderfully acerbic turns of phrase, such as a young woman typified as “somewhat of a vulgarian with a spiritual home well in the middle of the front row of the chorus” or a man so ostentatious while apparently under the threat of death that “he might as well have announced his movements with a drum and fife band”.

Come the murder, all the fun disappears.  Bush loads clues like pellets into a shotgun, fires it into the narrative, and then has chapters and chapters of people endlessly picking it out of the wainscotting.  A key!  A thoroughly bland letter!  Some mud!  Someone furtively searching a desk!  A garden hoe!  A man going for a walk!  There’s no structure or artistry to the revelations, Bush simply knows what the answer is and needs to get eighteen things on the board so he can move them into the appropriate places.  And I wouldn’t say that I detected even a sniff of Carr or Crofts’ scent about this — consider Carr’s The Eight of Swords (1934), similarly built from inexplicable occurrences dappling a crime scene, where every bizarre discovery (the speaking tube, the open windows, the power cut, etc.) fits so naturally into the shape of the narrative.  Hell, even the arguably less successful The Curse of the Bronze Lamp (1945) brought more shape to its events beyond merely the events themselves.  And compare that novel to the confused explanation disclosed in the final chapter to explain the mystery here…a series of events that would leave Crofts laughing up his sleeve for how unstructured it all reveals itself to be.

In an impressively small cast, which would be reminiscent of Christianna Brand if even one of them had any characteristic to remember them by, the sheer number of people who have done something entirely blameless and yet go about hiding evidence of these acts as if they have any bearing on the murders is…surprising. And very reminiscent of a 1920s farce.  Yes, I know it’s a Golden Age trope of sorts, but Bush uses it here in a manner that feels about as authentic as Sophie Hannah’s rendering of Hercule Poirot.  Plus, there’s a distinct air of the padding that fills out, say, Death on the Nile (1937) in how two or three plot strands here — the one resolved in chapter 14, say — could be removed wholesale and have the book make a lot more sense in terms of both character action and motivation.  Again, in 1923 this would be more acceptable.  Still annoying, but not this annoying.

You’re welcome, too, to cite the complexity of this scheme when comparing it to far better writers, but when the core murder only becomes a mystery because of the entirely unaccountable actions of one person…sorry, but to me that’s not good plotting.  To generate mystery from someone who doesn’t know the purpose of at least one key object taking that object from the crime scene and placing it in a conveniently mysterious place…well. You might as well have a sheep smuggled into the house so that everyone wonders why there’s a sheep there, and the reason there’s a sheep there is to make everyone wonder why there’s a sheep there…but while it’s there it also eats a key clue and at the end Travers tries to convince you that said consumption was a genius part of the Machiavellian scheme.  You’d be furious.  And rightly so.

But, look, it’s not all bad. I did like Chief Inspector Norris and his men, who remind me of the easy camaraderie among professional brothers in arms typified by Norman Berrow’s Lancelot Carolus Smith novels…

“Look at the sleeve of this dressing gown, how it’s scorched.  He probably knew the bullet was coming and put his arm up.”

“I’d have ducked,” said Lewis flippantly.  Travers rather agreed with him.

…but some semi-hardboiled dialogue (“This fellow’s tailor-made for the job. What you’d rather have is a suit of reach-me-downs.”) or the occasionally terse dismissal of a concept makes me suspect that Bush would rather have been writing less genteel stories that dwelled more on form and less on function — Erle Stanley Gardner was disgusted when his own writing was compared to that of Dashiell Hammett, and I get the feeling from this that Bush would be delighted were the same to happen to him.  This is limp, tepid writing masquerading as legitimate detection — everyone just knows what they need to know, or they guess wildly and happen to be correct at the first try — and Bush is only deserving of comparison to Crofts and Carr on account of how equally far behind both of them he finds himself nine books into his career.

But, everyone else disagrees with me, so make of that what you will.  I, however, reckon I can safely give the man and his work a wide berth for the time being without feeling too wretched about what I might be missing.  The worst part of all this is that I feel like I’m letting Nick down somehow.

Sorry, Nick.  We’ll always have R. Austin Freeman…

~

See also

Jose @ A Crime is Afoot: In short, as a reading experience it was fascinating. The story is nicely crafted, the author plays fair, and the plot is complex enough to interest the reader. Even if the solution comes as no surprise to you, I still found the story clever and attractive.

Kate @ CrossExaminingCrime: There is a lot to intrigue and perplex readers in these crimes, including bizarre clues at the crime scene, (in a bedroom), such as a Dutch hoe. One slight niggle is that a very crucial piece of information is only found out at the very end of the book, a piece of information which gives the sleuths their final breakthrough and yet the only thing stopping them from getting this information sooner is one very recalcitrant suspect. I don’t know, perhaps this aspect of mystery writing affects people in different ways, but I think I prefer evidence to be more readily available, yet of course given in such a way that you smack your forehead at the end of the story, when you realise what you’ve missed.

~

Maybe Bush would be more to my liking in short form — his crime story ‘The Hampstead Murder’ (1955) in Tony Medawar’s very enjoyable Bodies from the Library 3 (2020) collection is much more my tempo. I doubt any of these DSP reissues is a short story collection, but the semi-inverted nature of that story is quite pleasing. So — any inverted mysteries in this man’s output? Because that might tempt me back in sooner.

40 thoughts on “#706: The Case of the April Fools (1933) by Christopher Bush

  1. Rewind three years ago, and Bush was top on my gift list – Cut Throat, The Case of The April Fools, and… I don’t know, I feel like there was another. Based on the reviews, all that I wanted that year was those Bush novels (probably along with Harriet Rutland). I was even trawling the usual sites for Bush novels that hadn’t been reprinted yet – and I remember a few in the $10-15 range that I was heavily tempted to go for.
    Then I read one. Now, I probably read his equivalent of The Dead Man’s Knock, but there was nothing there for me. Ever since then, I’ve watched the avalanche of enthusiastic Bush reviews roll in, and I’ll admit it has somewhat jaded me. Don’t get me wrong; that a lost author like Bush has been brought back to life is absolutely to be celebrated, and I’m absolutely devoid of a breadth to base my opinion on, but for me, this has more been a learning experience about reviews and reviewers. Now I watch the same pattern unfold for other authors.

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        • Ha, I’ll see about R Austin Freeman soon enough. I imagine I’ll start one his books soon, although I don’t have any overlap with what you’ve reviewed.

          Freeman Wills Crofts – now there’s an author that I need to get back to. I really enjoyed The Sea Mystery, and the fact that I haven’t gotten back to him is… just odd. Well, actually, you’ll laugh (or throw a brick at me), but part of the reason is because the five or so Crofts books that I own are all Penguin editions, and for some reason, I never get excited about reading a Penguin. Plus, I haven’t been able to get my hands on any of the Crofts books that I really want to read, although the coming reprints might change that.

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          • Whisper it, but I know what you mean about the Penguins. As a series it undoubtedly published some of the greats, and it enabled access to some brilliant genre writing both when published and down the years to those of us who snap them up secondhand. But as books…yeah, they’re difficult to get excited about. I actually have two Crofts in Penguin, and I’m sincerely hoping that HarperCollins reissue them or I track down the House of Stratus editions (in perfect condition, naturally) before I get to them (they’re Death of a Train and Golden Ashes, btw, in case anyone has a spare copy kicking around).

            So, worry not, you’re among friends 🙂

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            • I think I like them on the principle of them having provided me with my first access to so many classic authors. But as physical books I find them vexing: the pages frequently bound too close to the edge so they’re hard to read, the bindings cracking when you try to read what’s hidden close to the edge and the whole things flopping open in your hand like a dead pigeon…it’s my equivalent of the religious homily “Hate the sin, love the sinner” 😆

              And, yes, the post-60s pictorial covers — despite introducing me to Edmund Crispin, Jospehine Tey, Margery Allingham, and others — are definitely the lesser branch of that family. Better-made books, annoyingly, but less appealing in most other regards.

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        • “He’s sublty calling out my adoration of The Freemans, I reckon… 😁”

          Fear not, JJ – apart from your review of ‘D’Arblay Mystery’, I don’t espy an ‘avalanche of enthusiastic [Freeman] reviews’ as yet… 😜

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    • Yeah, I know what you mean — there are certain books or authors that I see praise heaped upon and then read myself only to be underwhelmed…and I do think “Er, is it me? Am I reading the right genre? Because, like, everyone seems to love this…!”. But then I see someone dislike, say, The Seat of the Scornful by Carr or The Sea Mystery by Crofts, and it makes me feel better. Sometimes, for whatever reason, something just doesn’t land. Hell, if you could write a book that everyone loved, you’d have practically cracked the formula for printing money.

      So, I fee bad — given the time and effort Dean Street Press and Curtis Evans put into these reprints — that I’m not adding to the volume of praise for Bush, but it’s not like there isn’t plenty of that around. People are welcome ignore me and my opinions, I never claim to have the last word on anything. But maybe someone out there will feel a little better about themselves having also failed to enjoy this. That’s the service I’m providing here 🙂

      This is also why I’m so grateful to Nick for his suggestions — he rarely steers me wrong, so I know that if I don’t like this then I’m unlikely to jump too high at the prospect of more Bush. I mean, I’ll give the guy another go at some point, maybe in another three years, but there’s plenty of Connington, Crofts, Freeman, Radford, Rice, Rutland, British Library, Penzler AMC, Locked Room International, Pushkin honkaku and others to keep me occupied in the meantime.

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  2. Thanks JJ for the review… 😅 I confess I’m leaning closer to your position than not. To date I’ve only read 2 titles by Christopher Bush – the second of the 2, ‘Case of the Dead Shepherd’, was ok. The first, ‘Dancing Death’, I did not find enthralling at all. 😕

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    • Dead Shepherd I didn’t like at all – it’s grim, full of fiddly timings, and the solution’s a variation on a Father Brown story.

      Apparently I liked Dancing Death when I read it – but my praise for it is effusive. It’s a good average rather than a great.

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    • The guy did write about 50 books, so doubtless some of them are good — and there’s probably some unheralded title in there somewhere which everyone else overlooks and that I’ll love…it’s just a matter of stumbling across it.

      In the meantime, don’t feel too bad about not loving him — we’re in a real boon time for reprints, as I say above, and so there’s doubtless someone else out there whose re-emergence you can support and get enthusiastic about: Cornell Woolrich, E & MA Radford, John Bude (okay, that last one’s a joke 😄). Plenty of people are supporting the Bush telegraph, so find a drum you enjoy beating…!

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  3. Bushed by Bush? Oh, dear. I thought that you’d enjoy this one. But don’t feel that you’re letting me down, by any means. Bush is uneven, and he’s an acquired taste. (Anthony Boucher for instance wasn’t a fan, nor were Barzun & Taylor.)

    A handful are brilliant (of which you’ve read two, and enjoyed neither!), but a lot of his mysteries feel shaggy or ramshackle. They’re not as well-constructed / solid as Crofts or Rhode, and the detection feels more amateurish, while in later books Travers’s first-person narration keeps the story and characters at arm’s length.

    That said, April Fools is one of the good ‘uns. For Britain in the early 1930s, it’s a welcome attempt to be clever. The Twenties generation of British detective writers tended to be ingenious rather than clever – few other than Anthony Berkeley and, of course, Aunt Agatha had much sense of the Detective Story as Game. Not until 1935 or 1936 does the fair play puzzle plot become instinctive for young rising British writers like Blake or Innes. (The Penny had dropped, one might say.) Whereas the Americans had used the form (however ineptly) since at least Carolyn Wells.

    Oh, and … “My blushes, Watson!”

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    • I appreciate the nudge into recommended titles — you’ve got a good sense of my tastes, and a far far wider coverage of the genre than me (blushes, nuthin’), so you’re saving me time and money in the long run that I’ll be able to put into the Woolrich obsession I have quietly simmering.

      The Twenties generation of British detective writers tended to be ingenious rather than clever

      Yes, this distils a lot of complex observations into their key common feature, and sums up my experience with Bush in these two ‘brilliant’ books to date — ingenuity in full force, but plotting and intelligence in the construction of a story that’s also a collaborative endeavour lacking severely.

      However, lesson learned. Now onwards…!

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  4. I tried getting into Cut-Throat, but ended up never finishing it. It just didn’t work for me; the mystery might’ve been fine, but the writing style made it really difficult to get through. Too… verbose, to the point I wasn’t sure if I was entirely understanding what was going on in certain scenes (though that could be because English isn’t my first language and I’m just not familiar with some of the expressions used).

    I heard good things about Bush, but I don’t really think he’s for me, either.

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    • I’d agree that there are definitely some odd sentences, the meaning of which can be hard to discern sometimes. I started taking note of them, but thought it might be churlish to include them in this review — there’s already enough I didn’t like about it, no need to kick the poor man when he’s down.

      My point it, I don’t think it’s your English — I think it’s Bush’s writing. And, hey, this happens. Someone in the last week told me that they didn’t like The Plague Court Murders because it was too densely written…no accounting for individual tastes.

      If I’d run out of GAD to read, I’d be more vexed. Thankfully, that doesn’t seem likely to happen any time soon.

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    • Someone out there always disagrees, I, er, agree. Seeing why something doesn’t work for someone else is often a great way to find out about your own tastes and preferences. I’m delighted to have such an intelligent audience 🙂

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  5. After having discovered the Golden Age of Mystery and all the intriguing writers of the time, I’ve never known where to turn my attentions. There’s so much good writing and windows to the past presented that I gnash my teeth every day at all the wasted time of previous decades reading. So, if you didn’t get back to Bush, it’s entirely understandable, at least by us who read. Thanks for the tip on this writer whom I will now investigate!

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    • Ha, I know the feeling. The good news is that you can start now, spend years reading wonderful books, and have a delightful time in the process. So, in reality, you’ve just hit the jackpot. Welcome to the fold!

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  6. You only have yourself to blame. I told you to read The Case of the Missing Minutes, but did you listen? No. Of course you didn’t listen. Look what happened.

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    • Okay. In another three years, I promise I’ll try Missing Minutes, I might need you the remind me of the title, but that will be my next Travers — I pinky-promise.

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  7. Okay, let’s get Bush out of the way first. On the strength of everyone’s raves when the reprinting started, I uploaded two: April Fools and, on the strength of it being an academic mystery, Dead Shepherd. I started with April Fools and by the time got to the double murder. It all seemed so obvious to me that I paused . . . and never went back. After every rave of Bush, I keep thinking I should go back, finish TCotAF, and then try Dead Shepherd. But after reading your review and the comments, I might give both up for a lost cause. (Maybe it would have improved if I had stayed for the entrance of the sheep . . . seriously, the book needed a sheep.)

    I am having a moment here because I think a lot of us in this small community of GAD followers have had the same experience: hearing about a newly rediscovered classic author, often someone who has written thirty or more books, watching as heaps of praise are piled upon him or her, and then just . . . . not . . . getting . . . it. Of course, we all have different tastes, and I accept that one person may be put off by a style of writing that another person embraces. But I think you know what I’m talking about. I’m currently dealing with my antipathy for one of the latest of these: I purchased what I keep getting informed is one of the best . . . mysteries . . . EVER! And I got about a third of the way through it and just can’t finish.

    I should write it off as a mismatch, but I can’t help feeling like a traitor to the cause. Or like I’m stupid because I can’t fathom why people like somebody so much. I feel like the announcer in an old commercial: “Ladies, has this ever happened to you?” Seriously, I wish I liked everything because then I would always be reading and wouldn’t have this huge TBR pile all over the house and yet find myself pacing around with “nothing” to read!

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    • See, when something doesn’t work for me I honestly do feel like I’m the one missing something — and that could well be the case. But I take the advice of people who know better, buy the books I’m recommended (er, except where TomCat recommends them, it seems — sorry, TC) and figure that if it doesn’t work and I am missing something, well, I’m the one who’s missing out. It’s my time and my money, and I’m supposed to be reading for my entertainment…and if the first two aren’t resulting in the third, so be it.

      I used to be a lot more self-conscious about this sort of thing, especially when I was the obviously dissenting opinion, but we have a great community of intelligent and understanding readers and commenters who get that no-one is trying to be the last word on anything and that opinions are going to differ. It’s can actually be quite nice being the dissenting voice — not that I’d ever manufacture dislike of something purely for this purpose — because it at least feels like the other side of something is being put across. Y’know, for those of you who also don’t — or, in the case of Rupert Penny, do — see it.

      The dream is to love everything, because then one’s reading life would be joy after joy after joy, but that’d be weird. No-one likes everything unless they have no sense of what quality means to them…and, if that’s the case, their opinions ain’t worth anything anyway. A bit of criticism is good for the internal calibration; and without a but f criticism we’d have no ‘Dragging the Marsh’, would we?

      Worry not, Brad. Read what you want, write what you feel, love what you love. Life’s too terrible at the moment to double-guess the things we’re supposed to enjoy.

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  8. Thanks JJ!

    I read this when it was first reprinted and didn’t get on with it at all. I just remember a mess of a book that was mildly engaging in the third quarter and in need of a map. But I read these things because people are so enthusiastic and it must be me right?

    Same goes for me with Brian Flynn. I read the one that is supposed to be the most accessible but there was just one thing going for it. A surprise culprit. A plot full of holes and an inability to write good English seem not to matter.

    We are all different and look for different experiences from our reading but you’d think that in GAD we were basically all looking for a similar outcome with similar criteria and it comes as a shock when something one would consider poor is praised to the heavens. The alternative is true also. I really rate Vernon Loder, Molly Thynne and Francis Vivian for example. The first two are quite lightweight but fun, literate and entertaining. Vivian post-war and a bit darker.

    It wouldn’t do if we all liked the same things but if we want to shout against the crowd I think we (I) should probably do it more often and a bit louder.

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    • Firstly, every book needs a map. The world would be a better place if every single book came with a map. Even the ones that don’t describe physical space — bung a map in anyway, make people smile.

      Secondly, I do think there is a tendency to withdraw from expressing contrary critical opinions which is entirely natural. No-one want to be the first to rain on a parade, and especially not after the amount of work that goes into bringing these books out. I’ve learned a lot about how to criticise in writing these very public reviews — one in particular taught me more than probably all the rest together — and I think it’s tempting to assume that one will put it badly due to lack of practice and so to shy away from doing so. That’s laudable, but it does tend to skew the metric in favour of everyone saying positive stuff, and to leave anyone with a less rosy outlook feeling rather on the outside of things.

      So, y’know, I’m not exactly sounding a battle cry for out and out shit-slinging, but I do think there’s a tendency to see an opinion as unilateral because this GAD blogging community is pretty small (like, 20 people, I think, tops) and so the “public” view comes from a small cross-section of the actual public. Thankfully we’re all intelligent enough to tolerate people having a contrary opinion about a made up murder story, so I don’t really think there’s anything to fear.

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      • We are all different and look for different experiences from our reading but you’d think that in GAD we were basically all looking for a similar outcome with similar criteria…

        If GAD was nothing more than a simple game of clue, yes, but the detective story comes in so many different shapes and forms that were dreamed up by people with vastly different ideas of what makes a detective story. Anthony Berkeley, Raymond Chandler and Gladys Mitchell were all mystery writers from the same period, but compare their work, they feel like they are genres apart. Or what about the French thinking the British detective story was too cold and mechanical, which resulted in a typical French style of GAD (see LRI translations). Add to this readers with individual tastes and values, such as preferring plot over character or locked rooms to inverted mysteries, who not only come from countries all over the world, but different periods of time as well. You have to remember that we not only disagree with each other, but also with the fans who came before us. Just look at the devaluing of John Dickson Carr’s The Hollow Man and the reappraisal of Till Death Do Us Part as a top-tier title.

        So don’t feel left out when some of us are making loud, overly enthusiastic herd noises and you don’t get it. Changes are we’ll be giving you the same look the very next week.

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  9. Very enjoyable and illuminating review. I have tried two Bush titles but never made it far because his syntax and prose descriptions were strangely stilted, to the point that I couldn’t relax into the rhythm because I had to keep fighting against it. So your response to DWaM’s comments above are interesting. And your “somewhat of a vulgarian with a spiritual home in the middle of the front row of the chorus” quote is a great example — almost like I have to translate to put that string of syllables into a practical picture before moving on.

    Obviously, I haven’t read TCOT April Fools, but your observation hit home: “When the core murder only becomes a mystery because of the entirely unaccountable actions of one person…sorry, but to me that’s not good plotting.” That is infuriating when one comes across it! For me, it shatters the agreement between author and reader, not just regarding fair-play clueing, but because it reveals a lack of imagination and/or sheer laziness for not creating a better solution to explain mystifying events.

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    • I’m all for agents of chaos in plots, but when the plot — as here, I’d argue — comes about purely on account of an (accidental…!) agent of chaos…I dunno. It’s like a serial killer novel where the motive is that they’re mad, maaaaaaaad. Fine, their are books set up to support that sort of revelation, but they’re not the sorts of book I would choose to read.

      As for Bush and his written expression, I stand by what I say in the review about this one seeming to come from a decade earlier. By this point the novel of detection — which, perhaps, this isn’t — should be a smoother and altogether more functional thing. This feels like Berkeley’s early writing, but with more of the awkwardness and none of the charm. If it turned out that Bush wrote this bunch of novels in the 1910s and they just went unpublished for two decades, you couldn’t colour me less surprised.

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      • The Plumley Inheritance is quite well written, and there’s a flair to some of his Thirties writing. But a lot of his later books seem scrappily written; they also lack colour (atmosphere, characterisation, immediacy). But then I’m not a fan of hard-boiled first-person narration either.

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  10. In some ways it must be quite a relief to find a prolific author that you don’t like as it saves buying another fifty books. This one is the only Bush I’ve read and I thought it was fine but I will give him another go at some point.

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  11. Good lord; surprised so many people don’t enjoy Bush. I thought I was rather on the outer for *not* liking many of his books.

    Here are my ratings:

    The Plumley Inheritance (1926) =+ agreeable buried treasure story, coupled with moving look at return to civvie life after WWI
    The Perfect Murder Case (1929) + plenty of panache in opening murders, develops along solid Croftsian lines
    Dead Man Twice (1930) ++ in-depth investigation and Baroque plotting
    Murder at Fenwold (1930) = confusing
    Dancing Death (1931) + good Christmas country house party mystery (although somehow lacks polish?)
    Dead Man’s Music (1931) – boring reworking of Doyle’s “Resident Patient”
    Cut Throat (1932) ++ probably his best
    TCOT Unfortunate Village (1932) + multiple murders in English village, rather like a Gladys Mitchell
    TCOT April Fools (1933) ++
    TCOT Three Strange Faces (1933) =+ cluttered but fun
    TCOT 100% Alibis (1934) – drab and uninspired
    TCOT Dead Shepherd (1934) – Bush hated teaching; this is his revenge, but there’s no joy in it, and the detection is tiresome
    TCOT Chinese Gong (1935) = impossible crime and conjuring, done without Carr’s brio
    TCOT Monday Murders (1936) – mediocre
    TCOT Bonfire Body (1936) = lots of clever ideas, but the plot suffers from whopping great holes
    TCOT Missing Minutes (1937) ++ 100% Alibis perfected, with one of the nastiest victims in detective fiction
    TCOT Hanging Rope (1937) =
    TCOT Tudor Queen (1938) = clever alibi, lifeless telling
    TCOT Leaning Man (1938) =
    TCOT Green Felt Hat (1939) +

    Two impenetrable mysteries set in France with lots of confused rushing about:
    TCOT Flying Ass (1939) –
    TCOT Climbing Rat (1940) –

    TCOT Murdered Major (1941) =+ good setting, obvious plot
    TCOT Kidnapped Colonel (1942) =
    TCOT Fighting Soldier (1942) +
    TCOT Magic Mirror (1943) –
    TCOT Running Mouse (1944) =
    TCOT Platinum Blonde (1944) + village mystery – I liked it, but some bloggers really don’t
    TCOT Corporal’s Leave (1945) + more like a Rhode

    I didn’t like the post-WWII books:
    TCOT Missing Men (1946) –
    TCOT Second Chance (1946) –
    TCOT Curious Client (1947) –
    TCOT Haven Hotel (1948) =
    TCOT Housekeeper’s Hair (1948) –
    TCOT Seven Bells (1949) –
    TCOT Purloined Picture (1949) –
    TCOT Happy Warrior (1950) =+
    TCOT Corner Cottage (1951) =+
    TCOT Happy Medium (1952) –
    TCOT Counterfeit Colonel (1952) =+
    TCOT Silken Petticoat (1953) –

    A mid-50s recovery?
    TCOT Amateur Actor (1955) + although plot isn’t original
    TCOT Extra Man (1956) +
    TCOT Flowery Corpse (1956) +

    Slumps in the Sixties:
    TCOT Three-Ring Puzzle (1962) –
    TCOT Heavenly Twin (1963) – my first; rather like starting Christie with Third Girl
    TCOT Prodigal Daughter (1968) =

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  12. Firstly, a belated welcome back.
    All I can say is I’ve yet to read a Bush novel I didn’t like on some level. Travers is an appealing character to me and I can’t say the style of writing that others have complained of bothers me. Then again, there are plenty who sing the praises of Mitchell Tey and Allingham and I’ll happily toss every volume they have written from the highest window I can find.

    I think there have been so many reprints that it’s impossible for all of us to get on with all of them. For me the jury is out on Lorac as I’m detecting a certain sameness from the few I’ve read, and it’s not a good sameness either, As for Dean Street Press reprints, I’ll stick up for Bush any day and my experience of Brian Flynn has been good so far too. The Radfords, on the other hand, I never need to read another word.

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    • I have an uneven relationship with Lorac — a couple of the ones I read early on (from Ramble House) were very enjoyable, and some of the BL stuff is good…but a lot of the others have started at bland and veered downwards from there. I’d still love to read something great by her, however, so I’ll keep an eye on the reviews of what’s bound to get published in the years ahead (indeed, the BL already has at least one more in their canon ready to launch).

      As you say, some people are always going to love something that others dislike, such is opinion. Bush I’m okay leaving for now — I’ll come back to Missing Minutes at some point, but there’s plenty else to be getting on with in the meantime.

      Liked by 1 person

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