Diabolic Candelabra by E R Punshon

Chocolate can inspire lots of things, but a trip into the forest isn’t usually one of them. But Inspector Bobby Owen’s wife, Olive, is desperate to find the source of some uncommonly good chocolates and the woman who makes them lives deep in the woods. As do a strange hermit, a girl with a pet squirrel and various assorted odd-balls.

But things aren’t as simple as hunting down a recipe. When the hermit’s hovel is found abandoned with blood on the floor, Bobby finds himself investigating a case involving not only the source of the chocolates, but missing El Greco paintings, a missing artefact – the titular Diabolic Candelabra – and a possible cure for cancer… Oh, and the fact that while Bobby is convinced there has been a murder, there’s the small matter of a missing body…

The seventeenth of the thirty-five Bobby Owen mysteries, and I’ve read a few of these over the last couple of years. I’ve generally enjoyed them, but I’ve been looking for an outstanding read, the classic in the series. I was under the impression that this was that classic, the jewel in the series…

I was wrong.

To be honest, this is a complex multi-layered mystery that many may well enjoy, but for me, the layers were too many and too disparate. When Bobby switches his investigation from one to the other, it seemed a jump into a different story altogether. I’ve mentioned before that recently, due to other things happening (a.k.a. real life), my attention span isn’t at its best, but here I had to keep flicking back and re-reading bits to keep things straight (or as straight as possible) in my head.

At the end of the day, though, I didn’t really get on with this one. Have you read it? What did you think? As I said, I don’t think I was in the best frame of mind for it, so I’d really like someone to defend it. But it really wasn’t for me at all.

I do recommend people read the comments below where several fellow bloggers give their opinions on this one to give the other side of the story.


  1. Loved it. I’m one of its ardent fans. I’ve probably made it clear over the years that I’m not big on the formulaic detective novels of the past anymore. Linear stories just don’t interest me. Varied characters, Gothic settings, surreal incidents and multiple storylines are what will draw me in. The fantastical elements in DIABOLIC CANDELABRA appealed to me greatly. I think everything you found fault with is why I enjoyed it so much. Nick Fuller drew comparison to this novel and a Grimm’s fairy tale and I wholeheartedly agree. Perhaps if you knew it was far from Punshon’s usual fare and that it was a more like a dark fantasy than a detective novel you would have been better prepared to enjoy it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • “Varied characters, Gothic settings, surreal incidents and multiple storylines are what will draw me in. The fantastical elements….”
      Then you must be a fan of Paul Halter ! 🙂 🙂


  2. I read this one a few years back (and wrote it up at the time – http://www.classicmysteries.net/2014/01/diabolic-candelabra.html ). I enjoyed it tremendously. Perhaps, like John’s comment above, the added dose of odd people and even odder happenings intrigued me. I also quoted Nick Fuller’s review and agree with it – in fact, a lot of the things that happen here sound as if they might have come from one of the Grimm brothers’ nastier tales. I loved the characters (particularly Loo, the very odd little girl). It was only my second Punshon, and I’ve come to really enjoy his tales. Hey, if I can enjoy the “learned mice” of my favorite Michael Innes novel, (Lament for a Maker, why balk at an intelligent squirrel?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m with John and Les on this one. Absolutely loved it. But then again, I also love Gladys Mitchell and Diabolic Candelabra is pretty much a Mitchell novel written by Punshon. So if you’re not a fan of Mitchell, you’re probably not going to fully appreciate this one either.

    I recommend you give Ten Star Clues or There’s a Reason for Everything a shot. Or Six Were Present. However, that’s the last book in the series and advise you read a little more before approaching that one.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks to all of you on this – despite not getting it myself, I could see that I was missing something. Hopefully people reading the post will read your insights as well and give it a try.


  4. You sound like Jacques Barzun on Punshon, I addressed that subject in my intro to The Dusky Hour. I used to hate Gladys Mitchell, fwiw, then something clicked and I love a lot of her books. She and Punshon do have detection, but there’s a lot else going on too.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Loved this one as well. Perhaps because of the fairy-tale aspect of it all gone wrong. But I found it more satisfying than Music Tells All or Murder Abroad. Try Mystery Villa or Star Clues also (when you have a moment).

    Liked by 1 person

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