Miles Burton is one of the psuedonyms of prolific GAD writer, Cecil John Charles Street, more famously known by another of his pseudonyms, John Rhode. This year I made a calculated effort to read the Burton novels.
THE SECRET OF HIGH ELDERSHAM (1930): The first appearance of Burton’s detective, Desmond Merrion, the novel begins well but soon loses its plot. A murder that could have been solved pretty straight-forwardly loses itself in black magic and diabolical rites. It creates quite an atmosphere but with the villain sticking out a mile, the novel hardly stands out as a mystery.
First Line: Nobody knew better than Mr. George Thorold, the senior partner of Thorold and Son, the well-known Gippingford brewers, that in these days of highly-taxed beer it would not be an easy matter to find a tenant for the Rose and Crown.
Series: Desmond Merrion #1
LOOK ALIVE (1949): Annabel goes out for a drive with her friend David, who has just finished his medical training. Annabel feels that this drive and walk alone with her is just a pretext for David to propose to her and though she likes him, she cannot but feel that she ought to explore the
field world a little more. Also, there is the nagging thought that perhaps David is after her inheritance. Her grand-aunt, Mrs. Lavant, might be estranged from the family but she is an old lady and after her death, the entire fortune would be Annabel’s. All these thought make her peevish and short with David. As they wander in the woods, they reach the home of Mrs. Lavant. They wander in only to find the old lady dead in her hammock. They are still more shocked when the gatekepper comes upon them and accuses them of trespassing. Indignant, they return with David’s father (also a doctor), only to be shocked speechless because the old lady (an actress in the former days) very much alive is giving an interview to a couple of reporters. Annabel is furious with David. What kind of a doctor is he to declare an alive person, dead! And she is also attracted towards the virile, handsome gatekeeper. There is further mystification when the body of a woman is discovered in an old abandoned shed, which was locked from inside! So what did happen on the day? Was the walk through the wood just that or was there a sinister design behind it? My favourite of the Merrion mysteries read so far.
First Line: THE CAR, a rakish-looking two-seater of uncertain age, drew up outside the house in Surbiton.
Series: Desmond Merrion #36
FOUND DROWNED (1956): Desmond Merrion vacationing with his wife at a sea-resort, makes a visit to his old school, situated nearby. Through a former teacher (now the headmaster of the school) he becomes involved with the Harpole family. The patriarch, Dr. Eustace Harpole, had been a great favourite of the boys because of his kindly and sympathetic manner. When one of the sons of Dr. Harpole is found drowned, Merrion has to bring the murderer to book.
First Line: ALTHOUGH Greycliffe-on-Sea was one of the smaller and less well-known resorts, it was always crowded during the summer months.
Series: Desmond Merrion #48
DEATH IN A DUFFLE COAT (1956): Two spinsters, Miss Price and Miss Marsland live together at the Lodge Cottage. One snowy day, Miss Price, wearing a duffle coat, goes out to get coals from the coal shed. She slips and falls on the hard snow, fatally. It would have been dismissed as an accident but for the fact that Miss Marsland is nowhere to be found. Desmond Marrion takes up lodging at the Hall in order to solve the mystery. The editor’s note states: “Merrion slowly moves towards a solution, impeded and baffled, as we believe the reader will be too, by the prevalent fashion for wearing duffle coats.”
First Line: THE INQUEST was held at eleven o’clock on the morning of Friday, February 17th, in the club room of the Horseshoes, in the tiny village of Bruckam.
Series: Desmond Merrion #49
Have you read these books or others of Desmond Merrion? Which one would you recommend?