John Baxter, official to the League of Nations, is meeting his old friend, Colonel Granby, in a café in Zaragoza (in Spain, for those geographically challenged readers). Soon, he finds himself pursued/in pursuit of a villainous hunchback and finds himself having to dispose of a dead body.
This is just a prelude to the adventure that Baxter and Granby find themselves in, up against The Four Armourers, in a race to… do something first and the fate of the world (possibly) hangs in the balance… To be honest, I can’t say much about it without spoiling things. Read on to find out why.
Francis Beeding was the pseudonym of a pair of writers, John Leslie Palmer and Hilary Aiden St George Saunders, who wrote between 1925 and 1946. It seems from what little I can tell that they wrote a combination of spy stories, presumably the Colonel Granby tales, and actual mysteries. Although at least one cover that I can find describes “a Colonel Granby mystery”. I loved Death Walks In Eastrepps, but this one – let’s just say that the subtle advertising on the cover – Sit Up With Beeding – for this book as a cure for insomnia isn’t too far off.
To be fair, it’s not a mystery, but an adventure story, sort of an early years James Bond caper, as Baxter and Granby bounce around early twentieth century Spain for some reason. And I have to say for some reason, as it takes about 60% of the page count before Granby tells Baxter what’s going on and then, in a teeth-grindingly irritating way, Baxter, the narrator, ignores passing that information on and tells us:
I feel, however, that my immediate business is to get on with the story; and if you read to the end of it, you will, perhaps, agree with me.
Interesting choice of the word “if” there, as I was in serious danger of putting this to one side. And I don’t agree with him because even by the end of the tale, there’s precious little information on the MacGuffin that’s been pushing the story forward. But I persevered, because there’s some fun dated language bouncing around at times – such as the lovely dancer in the Café Pelican who, apparently, “lashes the dons to frenzy”.
So, a disappointment after two strong #1930book entries for Crimes Of The Century. A shame, as I had high hopes for this one. But it’s not a mystery, just a spy adventure and that’s not my sort of thing at all. So it’s not really recommended, but if it’s your sort of thing, then there are fun bits and bobs hidden around the unsurprising plot.