Another year, another collection of forgotten or unknown tales from the luminaries of detective fiction’s Golden Age brought to us by the tireless efforts of Tony Medawar. So how does Bodies from the Library 5 (2022) stack up?Continue reading
I first encountered J.J. Connington’s two-book sleuth Superintendent Ross in his debut, The Eye in the Museum (1929), a novel I disliked so much I’ve banished from memory almost entirely. It was to be hoped, then, that Ross’ valedictorian case The Two Tickets Puzzle (1930) would strike me more favourably — which, given the rate these Golden Age tyros produced mysteries (this is Connington’s ninth crime novel in just four years), didn’t seem too unlikely: quality is bound to vary wildly under intense output. And, sure enough, Ross’ final case is an improvement: clearer, better structured, and far more engaging.
The companion of the fictional detective — the “stupid friend” as Ronald Knox styled them — is something I have spent far too long thinking about, mainly because the protoype is always taken to be Sherlock Holmes’ chronicler Dr. John H. Watson. Joining me this week to discuss why that might not always be a good comparison to draw is Caroline Crampton of the superb Shedunnit podcast.Continue reading
Having recently discussed with Martin Edwards the efforts writers can go to in order to keep things fresh, I can understand how, after five books in three years featuring Sir Clinton Driffield as sleuth, J.J. Connington would fancy a change. This might be unfair to Driffield, however, for the simple fact that the plot Connington cooked up for The Eye in the Museum (1929) is about the dullest thing anyone would put on paper in that decade. With interview after interview after interview after interview, we’re not Dragging the Marsh (© Brad Friedman) so much as dying inside. No, that’s not clever; this book has left me unable to care.
When recently retired Chief Constable Sir Clinton Driffield heads to the village of Raynham Parva to spend some time with his widowed sister and her two children, he is met by surprises on all sides. On the drive down he encounters what appears to be the shattering of an Eternal Triangle, then he discovers that his beloved niece Elsie has embarked on a nostrum of a mariage to Vincente Francia, an Argentinian gentleman no-one had ever heard of before. Driffield barely has time to tut disapprovingly before one member of that Triangle turns up dead in suspicious circumstances and, despite his questionable official status, he is called in to consult.
If ever a classic-era mystery delivered promise after promise in the opening chapter it was Murder in the Maze (1927), the third criminous novel by Alfred Walter Stewart under his J.J. Connington nom de plume. You get near-identical twins, one of who is the lynchpin barrister in an on-going high-profile trial, their wastrel and haphazard younger brother, their mentally-inflicted nephew, their plans to each sit in a different part of their country house’s hedge maze for some peace and quiet, a bunch of house-guests coming and going to odd places, and a suspicious valet. If all this didn’t presage a murder, you’d want your money back.