When Richard Langley entered the town of Angel, he never expected things to transpire the way they did. He never expected to meet Priscilla Schofield. He never expected to be asked to deliver her kitten Ahaseurus to Priscilla’s father. And he never expected to stumble into the wrong house and come face to face with a gang of obvious criminals – a really bad time to walk in and, in an attempt at humour, announce that the cat was out of the bag.
Soon, Langley finds himself looking over his shoulder for enemies in the shadows and when a body turns up in his car, things start to hot up. But it is only when Langley himself disappears that Priscilla decides she needs to summon some help – help in the form of Anthony Lotherington Bathurst.
Every author has one – Agatha Christie had Postern Of Fate and Passenger To Frankfurt. John Dickson Carr had Papa La Bas. But these were their final works, as age and infirmity kicked in. But they also had the occasional stinker when they were at the height of their powers. Christie’s The Clocks, for example, or Carr (as Carter Dickson) with And So To Murder. The Facebook GAD group offered Gladys Mitchell’s Mudflats Of The Dead, Edmund Crispin’s Frequent Hearses, Ngaio Marsh’s Died In The Wool, John Rhode’s Pinehurst, Michael Innes’ The Open House and many, many more. Authors who generally wrote great books – well, for me at least the jury is still out on Innes – but for some reason had an utter drop in quality for a book or two. Well, you can probably see where I’m going with this…
Generally speaking, Flynn has gone under the radar for years until a certain blogster became obsessed with him, but one reference to him comes from Jacques Barzun in his Catalogue of Crime. Barzun had read only one title by Flynn, and responded that the book he read was:
“Straight tripe and savorless. It is doubtful, on the evidence, if any of his others would be different”
And the book that he read was this one.
Imagine if the first and only book by Dame Agatha that you read was The Clocks. Or Postern Of Fate. It would put you off for life. And, of all the Brian Flynn titles that Barzun read, he had to choose this one. Now, I’ve read sixteen books by Brian Flynn and enjoyed to varying degrees every single one of them, so I know this is an aberration, but after this one, no wonder Barzun dismissed him.
To be fair, I’d not call it savorless. I like Flynn’s verbose writing style and his turn of phrase, so it’s not savorless. But it is tripe. Because he forgot to put a mystery in the story.
The book it reminds me of most is Allingham’s Traitor’s Purse, with lots of running around after villains and not much really happening. There’s no whodunit element here at all, with the only mystery being what the villains are up to. And it’s a stupid scheme which is extremely dated and that I’m not convinced would have worked anyway, and really doesn’t seem enough to kill over.
Add in some rather painful flirting between Langley and Pauline, Pauline’s father who is the biggest stereotype of the retired colonel stereotype – who is quite amusing at times to be fair – and Anthony Bathurst in a dress… no, this may not be savorless, but it is unfortunately tripe. The title is pretty dull too – very Rhode-ian.
But on the plus side, my copy has a dustjacket. Isn’t it pretty? That’s Bathurst, by the way, so now I have a picture of my hero. But the book… Not Recommended.