I read the first half of Blue Murder (1942), the third and final novel by Harriet Rutland, in a single gasp. It’s a fascinating opening, deliberately short on setting and description so as to emphasise the characters you’re going to be spending the book with, and it drew me like a moth to a flame, eager for the destruction to come. From the outset, when headteacher Mr. Hardstaffe learns that his affairs are being gossiped about by the village schoolchildren and calls them “little bastards!” for showing such disrespect, we’re clearly not in the genteel arm of GAD, and it’s only a matter of how savagely Rutland develops from here. And, as things progress, we seem to ring more than a few changes.
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?