Miles Burton has been more miss than hit with me yet when I see his books I usually borrow them. Recently, I was lucky to find three of his lesser-known titles.
When a police officer finds part of a fur coat wrapped around the buffer of an engine, he is bewildered and informs his Superintendent about it. Suspecting the worst, Superintendent Rowley starts his investigations and finds that the wife of the local medical practitioner, Dr Thomas Prentice, had said that she was going to London but hasn’t been heard of since. Some other belongings of her are found scattered around the country-side. At Rowley’s request Inspector Arnold of the Scotland Yard is sent to help in the investigation and before one day has passed, he calls in his friend Desmond Merrion (Is he that doubtful of his own abilities to solve a case?). The problem that confronts the investigators is how to proceed in a case where there is no body. So is Barbara Prentice dead or missing?
I quite liked this book (despite a big plot-hole that sucks the book inside it) because of some interesting characters, foremost amongst them the husband of the missing woman. The end is in a way saddening and I really wish the culprit had got away with it.
First Line: On Tuesday, January 5th, the last train of the day drew into Wroxley station at 9:50 p.m.
Publication Details: 1936. London: Collins (The Crime Club), 1936.
Alternate Title: The Clue of the Silver Cellar
Source: SPL 823 B98W
Other Opinions: The Grandest Game in the World
Up the Garden Path
This was published in 1941 and predictably enough begins with a murder during a black-out. Mrs Hurst, the wife of the village sergeant, is having tea with her guest, who has come to her house in order to sell tickets for a dance, the proceeds of which will go to the soldier’s fund, when there is a knock at the door. A man called Noakes who works as a butler at Valley View wants to see her husband. Mrs Hurst is amazed because her husband had, in fact, left only ten minutes earlier after having received a call from Valley View. Noakes professes surprise and saying that he will catch up with the sergeant, leaves the house. Only he doesn’t get very far because his corpse is discovered soon afterwards right in the sergeant’s garden. Inspector Arnold arrives from the Yard but soon he and Hurst discover that there is a lot happening in the little village of Downspring, something that brings Desmond Merrion, now attached with Naval intelligence, to the scene of the crime.
This was an interesting look at life during war-time with its sirens and all-clears and even dog-fights though, of course, the Spitfires always win against the Junkers. Despite other restrictions, food, it seems, hadn’t been rationed till then so we have details of the vast amount of food that Arnold and Hurst devour at each meal. However, the identity of the German agent wasn’t too difficult to guess so the mystery was virtually non-existent. And why is that description of Jews always has to include hooked nose and oily hair?
First Line: “Yes, of course, I’ll take a couple of tickets,” Mrs. Hurst exclaimed readily.
Pub. Details: 1941. London: Collins (The Crime Club), 1941.
Alternate Title: Death Visits Downspring
Source: HML F.B.U 20 A
A Will in the Way
Thankfully in this 1947 mystery, we are away from spies and enemy agents (there is only so much of German agents in England that I can read) though the war’s shadow still lies over England.
John Botesdale, who made some highly hush-hush gadgets during the war is supposed to be suffering from an obsessive disorder because of which he is confined to an asylum, when the novel opens, and being visited by his house-maid, Esther Kergarve, who is more like a family member since she and John grew up together. Esther is pleased to see John recovering but is fearful that even if he returns to his home, life will not be the same and he might have a relapse considering John is not really compatible with his second wife, Dilys, a glamorous, socialite divorcee whom he had married after the death of his first wife. A marriage that had so angered John’s sisters that they had broken off all ties with him. But Esther needn’t have worried about John’s return or his marital woes because when she gets back, she finds Dilys quite dead after having slipped down the stairs. An unfortunate accident or is it? Arnold and Merrion investigate.
This was a quick read and fairly engrossing. However, as in the previous book, the identity of the murderer wasn’t too hard to guess and added to my frustration with Arnold’s obtuseness.
First Line: She had never married, though everyone agreed that she would have made an excellent wife for a steady man in a good job.
Pub Details: 1947. London: Collins (The Crime Club), 1947
Source: HML F.B.U 20D