Dark things are afoot in the village of Mallett. A man is found dead, with severe burns on his back. Somebody had dropped hot cinders down his back, and the shock was enough to kill him. But that is only the first hint of things to come…
Soon, another man lies dead, from cyanide-laced fish. And another is found drowned in a water-barrel. Is a homicidal maniac stalking the streets of Mallett. The police certainly think so, but Anthony Bathurst, a consulting detective, has different ideas. He can see that somebody is working to a dark and sinister scheme – but can the killer be found before his or her scheme comes to fruition?
A final review for Past Offences’ Crimes Of The Century #1943book and a return to Brian Flynn, the author that I recently stumbled upon via a very welcome Christmas present of The Mystery Of The Peacock’s Eye. This one is the thirtieth (of fifty four) book to feature Bathurst, my copy being a reprint by the publisher John Long. According to the inside cover, they also reprinted Such Bright Disguises (Book 28) and from the cover, the wonderfully named The Running Nun may well have been reprinted too – there’s actually a long list of “By The Same Author” but I’m not sure how many were reprinted. Certainly finding a copy of anything by the author is a tricky task – I’ve suggested to the British Library and Dean St Press that he might be worth their time so fingers crossed.
This one is rather fun – the bodies mount up, and the murderer’s plan is utterly bonkers, but the story potters along nicely and while the crucial clue is only mentioned briefly in passing, there’s some fun to be had spotting the link between the deaths that is part of the murderer’s plan – although given that it’s only at the end of the day that even Bathurst spots it, it does make the plan pretty stupid.
One of the fun things of #1943book is seeing how the crime authors of the time dealt with the war. John Rhode/Miles Burton used the fact to various extents in his plotting, Helen McCloy wrote a spy-thriller-mystery and Flynn… just ignores it. There’s no mention of it at all. But what hints of the time are there? Well, we have the word of the month which is “vaticination” – another word for prediction. We have a fish and chip shop being referred to as a “fried fish shop”. Drinks of the time included that popular cocktail a “Clover Club” – gin, lemon juice, raspberry syrup, and an egg white – yumsk! – and sherry came in varieties such as “brown”.
It’s not perfect – the killer’s scheme needs such an amazing amount of luck and coincidence to be viable in the first place and there are some lapses in logic, such as how the coals were kept hot enough to kill, that are happily ignored, and once Bathurst has things worked out, he takes an age to get to the point of confronting the killer. Oh, and I haven’t the faintest idea what the title is about…
Anyway, I wouldn’t break the bank to get your hands on a copy, but if you can find a cheap copy, this is definitely Recommended.