#721: The Chinese Parrot (1926) by Earl Derr Biggers

Chinese Parrot

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On Tuesday I looked at Ronald Knox’s omni-misquoted admonishment against detective fiction writers using the ‘sinister Chinese’ stereotype to furnish their villainous plots, so the ground is primed to explore here the other end of that spectrum with the Intuitively Sagacious Minority Written by a Non-Minority Author. And given that the Chinese character Charlie Chan had the era-dense misfortune to be played in some 40 films by two white Americans, there’s a certain anticipatory screwing your courage to the mast before you embark on the books of wondering just how forgiving you’re going to have to be.

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#90: The Tuesday Night Bloggers – Running Around with the Circus in Leo Bruce’s Case with Four Clowns (1939)

TNBs Travel

For my final post in this month’s Tuesday Night Bloggers focus on travel in Golden Age crime novels, I thought I’d deviate from the implicit notion of holiday in travel and instead look at itinerancy as explored in Leo Bruce’s fourth Sergeant Beef novel, Case with Four Clowns.  Last week I wrote about how John Dickson Carr made the aspect of travelling central to the mystery he created with ‘Cabin B-13’, and arguably Bruce does a similar thing here, albeit coming from a slightly different perspective and playing up to the travel aspect in a slightly more subtle way.

Bruce was, it’s fair to say, wise to the conventions of between-the-wars detective fiction, and his ruthlessness in playing both on and up to them is one of the factors that kept the genre fresh.  And so we have Sergeant William Beef, the dunderheaded local bobby who runs rings around the genius amateurs (Case for Three Detectives, recently reviewed by Kate here), the murder with no sign of a victim (Case Without a Corpse), the murderer who plans to commit a murder where they will have no connection with the victim and so be uncatchable (Case for Sergeant Beef) and the previous book in this series, Case with No Conclusion, whose plot is hard to summarise but whose ending – in true convention-baiting style – Bruce tells you on the very first page of Case with Four Clowns.  Spoilers, obviously, so be aware.

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