Case For Three Detectives by Leo Bruce

Three DetectivesAnother country house, another weekend party. This time, the host is Dr Thurston, a happily (?) married man who has invited a number of his friends to stay with him. The first night, however, three screams are heard from upstairs. After the bolted door (from the inside, obviously) is broken down, Thurston’s wife is found dead, her throat cut. The only exit is through the window, but there’s no evidence of escape that way… It seems to be an impossible crime…

Luckily, the upper-class crime solver Lord Simon Plimsoll is soon on the scene. As is the eccentric foreign detective Amer Picon, he of the egg-shaped head. As is the clerical sleuth Monsignor Smith. With the combined brain power of all three sleuths, how can the killer possibly escape justice? Well, probably quite easily – it’s a good thing that Sergeant Beef is grumpily skulking in the background…

I’ve come across Sergeant Beef in Bruce’s selection of short stories, Murder In Miniature, and have been meaning to try his novels ever since. I figured the beginning was a good place to start (especially as the ebook was pretty cheap) and it’s got good reviews elsewhere.

Was it worth it? Definitely. Bruce takes a good poke at Wimsey, Poirot and Brown – well, at their authors, anyway – and the detective genre in general, while still producing a clever locked room mystery in the process.

Bruce’s message seems to be that the police would be more than capable of solving the sorts of crimes that need the classic detectives in fiction – he makes a point that Beef solves the crime almost instantly but is under instructions to let the famous sleuths “do their thing” before he arrests anyone. And, of course, the sleuths make a hash of it. The pastiche of the sleuths does slip occasionally into nastiness, especially with “Monsignor Smith” who only seems to possess Father Brown’s less endearing qualities, and for all of Beef’s protestations, his inactions lead to another death, something worse than what he accuses Smith of.

So there are flaws – Beef’s instant solving involves some clues that aren’t revealed to the reader, as they would be a complete giveaway, and there still needs a bit of a jump to get to the murderer – but it’s an entertaining read and a good locked room mystery (although it’s a bit of shame that the three detectives’ solutions are utterly ridiculous in this aspect). But Bruce is an entertaining writer and manages to carry the reader past those problems. Definitely worth your time. Recommended.


  1. I love this one, it’s easily in my top ten imposible crimes. Beef’s instant solution is, you’re right, problematic, but the way Bruce is able to exploit the same information to provide four distinct solutions is amazing, something more modern writers of purported detective fiction should definitely treat as a textbook. So glad you enjoyed it, jjust be aware that the next few novels are a bit of a drag by comparison…

    Oh, and it’s Simon Plimsol, not Boswell


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