MasterMoreton opened his eyes at this admission and stared up into the inspector’s face with renewed interest, suddenly remembering the conversation in the train and his disparagement of the police in general. Bit of a floater really but…
Young Augustine Marryon Moreton is in low spirits. Not because of his name or short height or even nickname: Bunny, if you please. He is feeling low because his mother has called him home once again mid-term, just as there was an important match round the corner. Now Bunny is sure Smith minor would cement his place in the school rugby team. Wasn’t it bad enough that his father is presumed dead in the war and his mother is distant, and as for her friend, Uncle Henry…
Bunny gazes despondently around at the platform. A tall man with an evil cadaverous face is looking at him intently. Bunny is more than happy when his train rolls in and he finds himself in a compartment with a large, kindly gentleman who boards the train abruptly and gets down just as abruptly, a station before Bunny’s own. He is the first of many strangers that Bunny would meet that day. On reaching his station, he finds that there is nobody to receive him and when he reaches the manor his mother has recently purchased, he finds it deserted, with a notice for sale on the door. Did he miss the directions given by the station master? However, there is bread and cheese in the kitchen and as he stuffs himself, he hears footsteps receding from the manor. Then two men with frightening voices enter the manor. Their argument ceases when they spy Bunny but even as he hides from them, they scream loudly and rush out of the manor. Soon Bunny is following in their footsteps but as he hurls out of the manor, he bangs against the gentleman from the carriage. There are bullets, bicycle chases, an iron ball, an armour with a clay pipe, a man hanging from the roof. All in one night! Surely Bunny would have a tale to tell when he returns to school. Oh! And did I mention a monkey?
There are so many authors of whom little is known. Cecil Freeman Gregg is one of those. Though he wrote more than 40 novels and had two series characters, I have been able to find only a couple of posts on him. He doesn’t even have a wiki entry in English. And it is really sad because this was a wonderful find. An interesting mystery and some memorable characters from Bunny to Antonio with his monk to Milton Shakespeare Scott (I kid you not!). The police too is presented in all variety especially the large (hearted) Inspector Higgins and his superiors, both of whom have big paunches and one even scrapes the jar of marmalade clean and looks for last remaining crumbs on the plate after finishing his breakfast.
I also enjoyed the author’s descriptions, especially his way of telling the thoughts that are passing through a character’s mind. A new thing was Higgin’s expression. He uttered “Jerusalem” throughout the book. Now I have heard of “Jesus” being used as an oath but this was totally new to me. Have you ever heard it being used in such a manner?
First Line: AUGUSTINE MARRYON MORETON seemed an incongrous little figure as he stood on the platform waiting for the train to arrive…
First Published: 1945
Series: Inspector Higgins #22
Submitted for FFB at Todd Mason’s blog Sweet Freedom.