“Elisabeth slept! It is perhaps a matter for wonderment that he sleep was untroubled. For – had she but known it – she was so close to Terror and Tragedy! So close to Death and deaths – so close to the menace of `Mr Levi’!”
Mr Medlicott, a solicitor, heads to the country home of his old friend and client Sir John Wynward, to spend Christmas with Sir John’s family and friends. But after a peaceful and enjoyable Christmas for all apart from Medlicott himself, who seems to be troubled and fearful for some reason, Sir John dies on Boxing Night, sitting at his desk in his study – to all appearances, a heart attack.
But natural death is out of the question when both Medlicott and Gooch, the chauffeur, are found murdered. What was Medlicott so afraid of? What did Gooch know that got him killed? Who is the mysterious “Mr Levi”, who sent notes to the victims demanding “the diamond” – and what diamond is he talking about?
Another book from lost author Brian Flynn. I picked Exit Sir John as it, along with The Sharp Quillet, seem to be the more findable Flynn novels for some reason. Both were published in 1947, with no apparent reprints that I can see, but there seem to be a few more copies of these are affordable prices. Absolutely no idea why – my copies of these books even have their dustjackets – so there just might be someone out there who’s read this one. You never know…
And it’s a good demonstration of Flynn’s strengths and weaknesses. The intriguing set-up – three deaths but without any clear motive – draws the reader in and the story bounces along nicely. Where it falls down a little is that the suspects aren’t given a vast amount of page-time, as we spend almost all of our time with Bathurst and the remainder with Elisabeth Grenville, a distant relation of Sir John who gets entangled in events. But while the central section falls into the common Golden Age trope of basically just being people talking to each other, it never seems dull. And Flynn also avoids the trap of some books with a large cast with his writing by having little subtle reminders as to who is who.
It’s a lovely, complete, solution to the mystery that explains everything and while I think you could argue that it’s not fairly clued, unless the reader is aware of a fairly obscure piece of literature, and the motive needs a bit of a stab in the dark, but it’s a satisfying solution nonetheless. Nothing revolutionary, just a classic mystery, well-told.
Brian Flynn himself remains something of a mystery, but I wonder – was there some link to the USA? Flynn was a British writer, but he twice has McMorran use Americanisms – “Tell That To The Marines” and “bolony” [sic] – despite the same character using the rather more Cockney “Gertcher” – in the space of two pages. It’s just a flash in a sea of Britishness – a vital clue comes from the day that the Daily Telegraph reports on rugby matches – but it’s odd nonetheless.
So, not quite up to the standards of The Mystery Of The Peacock’s Eye or, the best so far, Tread Softly, but an entertaining read, nonetheless. More evidence to me at least that Flynn needs to be rediscovered sooner rather than later (or not at all). Recommended.